At first glance, author Matthue Roth and illustrator Rohan Daniel Eason’s The Gobblings is as different from their first picture book, My First Kafka, as can be. While My First Kafka reached into the past to retell three Kafka tales, The Gobblings launches the reader into a distant future full of aliens, space machinery, and that perennial, universal picture-book fixture, loneliness. But very much like My First Kafka, The Gobblings is inspired in part by a Jewish master storyteller, the Baal Shem Tov.
Roth creatively reimagines the tale of a young, unschooled boy entering the Baal Shem Tov’s shul on Yom Kippur. Envious of those fervently praying, he offers up the only prayer he knows, the aleph-bet. To which the Baal Shem says, “It is your prayer that has opened the gates of heaven.” In the case of The Gobblings, Herbie is the little boy saving his family’s space station from the purple and yellow monsters — “space pests” — that feast on machinery and metal. Rohan’s illustrations are quietly gorgeous; the gobblings are depicted as reptilian, octopus-like things with tentacles, horns, broken teeth, and snouts that look not unlike Chinese finger traps. The world of The Gobblings is crammed with glowing, button-filled consoles, dark tunnels inside of metallic walls, and a crew in shoeless, tight blue, futuristic uniforms.
Reading The Gobblings calls to mind another childhood classic, Where the Wild Things Are. Both books center on bored, lonely boys discovering a plague of monsters, with the obvious exception that Sendak’s wild things are much friendlier and companiable than Roth’s greedy, guzzling gobblings. But the matter-of-fact magical discovery that imbues Sendak’s classic is very much alive in Roth’s as well.
This book is recommended for kids ages 4 – 10.
- Reading List: Matthue Roth
Read Matthue Roth’s Visiting Scribe Posts
Read Elie Lichtschein’s interview with Matthue Roth here.