It’s never a good sign when it’s sunny all around, save for a black and gloomy raincloud that seems to hover in one place. In Ian Ogilvy’s Measle series, featuring the unlikely hero Measle Stubbs, such a cloud hovers continuously over the evil Wrathmonks.
Wrathmonks are evil Sorcerers that wallow in making others suffer miserably, generally for a very long time, unless one of them decides to kill. Wrathmonks emphatically hate the Stubbs family, or “Ssstubbes,” as they pronounce it—so much that they’re anxious to kill them.
There are five books in the Measle series (I was able to get hold of only three). In Measle and the Wrathmonks, book one of a five-part series for middle-schoolers, Measle is 10 and a half years old. (The rest of the books are here, here, here, and here. The books have recently been re-released in Kindle editions under different titles.) He’s been a prisoner of Basil Tramplebone for six years, but he didn’t realize he was a prisoner. Instead, claiming he was a “relative,” Basil was awarded guardianship after Measle’s parents died. Basil wanted control of Measle’s money, and, of course, he likes treating Measle miserably.
Basil’shouse is dark, dirty, and dangerous; Measle is continuously hungry, cold, and dirty. The one thing in the house that fascinates him is Basil’s train set, but Measle isn’t allowed to touch it. Lying to Basil to get him out of the house, Measle rushes to the attic to play with it, but all too soon, Basil discovers Measle’s trickery. With ire, Basil casts an evil spell over Measle, rendering him the size of a “paperclip,” and sentences him to living in the train set “forever and ever and ever.”
Thankfully, Measle discovers that some of the plastic figures are human. Measle and the others, along with a plucky little dog named Tinker, band together to survive Basil’s evil.
In order to understand the books, Ivan Ogilvy has broken down the terminology for readers. There are three levels of Sorcerers: Wizards, Warlocks, Wrathmonks. They range from Wizards who are “reasonably kind,” Warlocks who are mostly good but “sometimes not,” to Wrathmonks who are “another thing altogether.” Measle is the son of a Wizard named Sam and a Manafont named Lee. (Sorcerers can only cast one big spell a day, but if they’re married to a Manafont, they’re able to do them continuously.)
Sam and Lee, a powerful duo, are employed by the Wizard’s Guild to search for Wrathmonks, which is why the Wrathmonks hate the Stubbs family. Measle, however, didn’t inherit magical powers. It’s a good thing too because in books one through three, Measle’s parents are almost killed, kidnapped, or rendered amnesiacs. Instead of magic, our hero, Measle, uses courage, ingenuity, and imagination to vanquish evil Warlocks and Wrathmonks.
Ogilvy is a fun writer, keeping the reader engaged in the fantasy. At their center, the stories have a strong theme: the importance of family. Ogilvy uses sorcerers—the reasonably good, the mostly good but sometimes bad, and the very bad—as a literary device, not a lure into occultism. It’s used in the same way he might have used other scenarios, like an evil king and his minions versus a young and vulnerable squire or page.
It’s sometimes hard to navigate the world of fiction today, and I’m not saying all books featuring wizards are equal. One troubling aspect in publishing right now is that the sheer volume of novels featuring wizards, warlocks, and so forth is overwhelming. However, publishers are selling books featuring these spooky beings because customers are buying them.
To help you think through the issue of reading Ogilvy’s books and others like them, I’d recommend reading Anne Morse’s instructive interview with Connie Neal about Connie’s bookWhat’s a Christian to Do with Harry Potter? As Connie Neal cogently argues, “Parents need to teach their kids the basics of the spiritual war that we’re in.” I concur. I also recommend that you read the books your young reader or young adult reads.
But I find it significant that in the Measle series, it’s a vulnerable human boy who outwits evil Wrathmonks and Warlocks.
Image copyright HarperCollins. Review copies obtained from the reviewer's local library.
Kim Moreland is the managing editor for the Colson Center, manages the Colson Center Library, is a research associate for BreakPoint, and writes feature articles and blog posts for BreakPoint.
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