I love Louie Stowell’s funny, clever books, and while this is a very different style to Otherland and The Dragon in the Library, it’s no exception!
Book: Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good by Louie Stowell
Publication date: 3rd February 2022
Ownership: Proof copy sent free of charge by Walker Books. All opinions my own.
Packed with doodles and cartoons, here is the diary of Loki as he’s trapped on earth as a petulant eleven-year-old—and even worse, annoying thunder god Thor is there, too.
After one prank too many, trickster god Loki has been banished to live as a kid on Earth. If he can show moral improvement within one month, he can return to Asgard. If he can’t? Eternity in a pit of angry snakes. Rude! To keep track of Loki’s progress, King Odin (a bossy poo-poo head) gives him this magical diary in which Loki is forced to confess the truth, even when that truth is as ugly as a naked mole rat. To make matters worse, Loki has to put up with an eleven-year-old Thor tagging along and making him look bad. Loki is not even allowed to use his awesome godly powers! As Loki suffers the misery of school lunch, discovers the magic of internet videos, and keeps watch for frost giant spies, will he finally learn to tell good from bad, trust from tricks, and friends from enemies? Louie Stowell’s witty text and hysterical drawings will keep readers in stitches from start to finish.
I’ve loved all of Louie Stowell’s middle grade books before, so I couldn’t resist requesting a copy of this, and it’s another great read! I don’t tend to gravitate towards kids’ books that are overtly pitched as funny, because my humour as an adult is quite different from what it was as a kid, but it’s absolutely obvious that Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good is going to be perfect for its target audience.
Loki’s voice is brilliant – he’s likeably awful and believable both as a petulant kid and as a mischievous god, and the diary format works really well to give a feeling of immediacy and fun, as do the doodles throughout. I loved the comments from Odin, magically correcting Loki whenever he got a bit too far from the truth! The Norse mythology is deftly woven in, with enough explanations (and diagrams!) that it would be understandable to someone completely new to it, but with plenty of references that will make those who understand them grin (Valerie Kerry, anyone?). And as well as the mythological elements being fun, it’s successful as a school story of a weird kid trying to make friends and grow a conscience.
This book wears its politics on its sleeve, with asides from Loki about capitalism, colonialism, and violent video games that will get chuckles from adults reading along, even if they go over the heads of kids a little bit. I only have one complaint, and that’s the brief section making fun of kids at private school, which felt unnecessarily nasty. I know laughing at snobby kids in their posh uniforms is a staple of school fiction, but it’s dated even then, and this wasn’t even as part of a character description or anything, just an inset text box that felt outright cruel in its dismissal of them as privileged, incompetent people. Whatever your feelings as an adult about private vs state school (and I agree that it’s an important issue), kids at private schools are still just kids (especially in the 9-12 age range this book is aimed at!), and have no power over that decision – and indeed many may be in private education for reasons other than class privilege, such as military families or educational needs. Statistically, surely not every child who picks up this book will be in state education, and I can’t imagine how horrible that section must feel to a nine-year-old coming across this. It’s not punching up if they’re literally children.
That being said, on the whole this is really heartwarming. I loved how casually Loki deals with gender without it ever being played for laughs (traditionally, of course, Loki sometimes taking a female form). There are some fantastic moments looking at what family means (not necessarily being related) and, of course, plenty of time spent on what being good looks like and why it’s worth it. It’s surprisingly sweet for a book with so many fart jokes!
If you’re looking for funny kids’ books, especially for fans of the illustrated diary style like Diary of an Accidental Witch (review here), this will be a huge hit. Four out of five cats!