What is a Wagmump? It’s a friendly, vaguely kangaroo-ish creature that gives off light at night – making it the perfect companion for young hero Alex in Mike Turner’s book Alex and the Wagmump.
Alex, a boy from the fictional country of Did, sets off to free his town from the night creatures that keep the people locked in their homes every evening. With the help of the wagmump and a mouse, Alex subdues the monsters using an unassuming weapon — a red feather — which proves the downfall of the ticklish creatures.
Turner delivers his story in rhyme, even using a limerick format on the first page. The rhyming is mostly successful, with an occasional spot of strange syntax (“It was all up to Alex and wagmump his friend,/For all of this mischief to put a quick end.”). The rhymes create a pleasant rhythm, but there are elements of the story that seem determined by the rhyme, rather than vice versa. For example, the mouse that accompanies Alex seems to be present mainly because of the author’s need on page one for a rhyme with “house,” with the small rodent barely seen throughout the rest of the book.
The illustrations are strong, with the night creatures appearing troublesome but not too scary for young readers.
Alex and the Wagmump is a pleasant, fantasy tale that doesn’t try to do too much. Its central plot twist – that a monster can be tamed (and befriended) as a result of a simple red feather – makes for an enjoyable, if occasionally uneven, picture book for young children.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.