The Gob­blings

Matthue Roth; Rohan Daniel Eason, illus.
  • Review
By – December 5, 2014

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.

Relat­ed Content:

Read Matthue Roth’s Vis­it­ing Scribe Posts

Why Authors Like to Tor­ture Peo­ple We Love

How to Write about Mov­ing a Mountain


Read Elie Lichtschein’s inter­view with Matthue Roth here.

Elie Lichtschein is a writer and musi­cian based in New York. He is cur­rent­ly pur­su­ing an MFA degree in Cre­ative Writ­ing from the New School, where he is com­plet­ing a mysti-fan­ta­sy Mid­dle Grade adven­ture novel.

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