This is one of many books I added to my TBR during my booktube craze. Back then, I’d get excited about whatever book was mentioned by a booktuber, buy it, and promptly throw it on my bookshelf to forget about it. That’s what happened to this one until I finally decided to read it for the NEWTs Magical Readathon.
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins (illus.)
On the island of Here, livin’s easy. Conduct is orderly. Lawns are neat. Citizens are clean shaven — and Dave is the most fastidious of them all. Dave is bald, but for a single hair. He loves drawing, his desk job, and the Bangles. But on one fateful day, his life is upended… by an unstoppable (yet pretty impressive) beard.
An off-beat fable worthy of Roald Dahl and Tim Burton, Stephen Collins’ The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is a darkly funny meditation on life, death, and what it means to be different — and a timeless ode to the art of beard maintenance. (Goodreads)
I learned of this book from Jen Campbell’s YouTube channel, but so much time has passed since I watched that video that I didn’t know what to expect when I finally picked up the book. I was surprised that I liked it.
The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is a fun story about a gigantic beard that upsets the neat orderliness of an island called Here whose inhabitants dislike differences. The protagonist, Dave, had no intention of growing a beard. It just happened, and he became mightily embarrassed by it because not only did it upset the routine of his life and that of the island’s inhabitants, it also brought unwanted attention to him.
Although the story’s tone is light and sometimes humorous, it is a thoughtful read that touches on people’s fear of the unknown and differences. Before the beard, everyone in Here was neat, orderly, and stuck strictly to routines. There was such a strong sense of sameness that everyone seemed to look and act alike. But the cataclysmic beard event changed all this by forcing people to express and accept their differences. Before the beard, Here’s inhabitants feared the sea that surrounds their island because the sea is mysterious and represents change. But that too the beard changes by arousing people’s curiosity and having them push pass their fear to explore the unknown.
The story is called a fable and, like most fables, it seems simple but delivers a message that resonates. The writing and illustrations are simple, but the prose is often poetic, which made me wonder if I was actually reading a poem. I liked the flow of the words and liked how they are placed among the illustrations, forcing the reader’s eye to travel across the pages, examine the illustrations, turn the page.
It’s a simple story but a fun one with a message that resonates.
Here, too, the presentation is simple. The illustrations are pencil drawings with no more details than what’s needed. However, this simplicity goes well with the story’s overall presentation so that the reader pays attention to the story being told without being distracted — unless the author wants to draw to the reader’s attention to a particular thing, which I think he does through word placement.
I like the illustrations. They are all done in variations of grey, which adds a softness to them. I think the only fully black areas are probably the beard and the sea. I also like the variety of panels used, and, as mentioned above, I love that the text is broken up and placed in various places around the illustrations to force the reader’s eye to move across the page and pay attention to the illustrations as well.
The panels are one of my favorite things about the book’s presentation because some panels seem to be an extension of those on the page that precedes it (like the image below of Dave looking out a bus window. The panels on the following page seem to extend from that bus window panel). The beard is my favorite image in the book. I like its seemingly threatening forms and how relentless and indestructible it is.
It’s a good read that’s light and humorous but carries a message that will resonate with many today without being preachy.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I think it’s worth owning.
I bought my copy a couple years ago when I visited Chicago for BookCon because although I would get loads of books at BookCon, I still visited bookstores for… reasons. This reason, which turned out to be a good read.