Today’s spotlight is on the fabulous new middle-grade series, Dream Team: Attack of the Heebie Jeebies, by my favourite picture book author and illustrator, Tom Percival.
Meet the Dream Team! Turning nightmares into incredible adventures!
Erika’s had a bad day. But going to sleep upset means bad dreams. She finds herself stranded in the Dreamscape along with a mob of hungry Heebie Jeebies – and to make matters worse, she’s being hunted by a terrifying Angermare!
Enter the Dream Team! Can they help Erika overcome her worries and get home, or will she be trapped forever?
I don’t often review middle grade books, but my two-year-old daughter and I absolutely adore Tom’s picture books and Attack of the Heebie Jeebies is THE book I’ve been most excited to read this year. What I didn’t expect when it arrived was that my daughter would grab it and dance around the room chanting “my book, my book”. She then went and got Ruby’s Worry and Ravi’s Roar and sat on her beanbag reading. She’d instantly recognised Tom’s illustrations and loved Erika’s curly hair. Yet again, I find myself in awe of Tom’s illustrations and his use of one dominant colour, in this case, purple. There is always a page in his books where the main character’s emotions tip-over-the-edge. Like when Ravi roars, or when Ruby worries so much her yellow worry fills the page. In chapter 1 of Attack of the Heebie Jeebies we see Erika’s anger take over.
I was wondering whether I should read this book to my daughter, even though it was aimed at older children – would she sit still long enough to read it? Would she be able to follow a more complex storyline? And then Tom announced he was going to read the whole book chapter-by-chapter on YouTube. We often read-along to picture books on CBeebies Bedtime Stories so I thought, why not?
Well, she loved it! Tom has woven his illustrations into the online readings which she joyfully found in the book and also danced along to the music. I’m not sure how much of the story she followed, but she definitely got the measure of the Heebie Jeebies and to my surprise made the connection between Erika’s baby brother Randall and the cheeky-but-lovable, Heebie Jeebie named Beastling.
As a passionate advocate for children’s stories exploring mental-wellness, I could write an essay on this superb exemplar. But I also want to highlight that Attack of the Heebie Jeebies is a fantastic adventure story in its own right. Set in the wonderful and unpredictable world of dreams, normal rules of what can happen don’t apply and Tom takes full advantage of this. But the real humour comes from the banter between the quirky Dream Team (Silas, Wade and Sim) and non-verbal Heebie Jeebie, Beastling whom Erika is attached to by an invisible rope. When Erika and the Dream Team realise that she is trapped in the Dreamscape, not only does it become a race against time to get her home, but they must also try to defeat the biggest, scariest Angermare that the Dream Team have ever faced as well as outwit the Dream-Crystal-Eating Heebie Jeebies. I mean, really, how much more excitement can one book have?!
As a parent currently living through the “terrible twos”, I loved Ravi’s Roar because it was a great introduction to children’s anger. But controlling our temper goes on long past toddler-age and I’m delighted that Tom has written a book for older children on the same theme, without it becoming too heavy or message-led. With Erika and Angermares, Tom has been able to delve deeper into the emotion of anger, whilst also creating a fabulous, wacky Dreamscape for the adventures to unfold. Erika is able to articulate and reflect on her why she got so angry and apologise to the people she’s upset. We also get many sub-plots emerging with Beastling also having a slight addiction to eating Dream Crystal. The whole Dream Team really is a dream team(!) and I am so excited to see what they get up to next. I did spy an Anxietymare in this book, so I’m hoping we may see more of them in the future!
For readers of middle-grade (whatever your age), Attack of the Heebie Jeebies is a fantastic new series. You’ll find yourself dreaming about the dreamscape with its backwards-flowing waterfalls and all the endless possibilities Dream Crystals can provide. And if you’ve read it already, and want a sneak peek at book 2, Tom has been sharing some of the incredible artwork on Twitter!
Publication date: 2 April 2020
I am very grateful to the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion.