Aleesah Darlison & Cheri Hughes – Super Sloth Episode 2: Revenge of the Chick-Oats

Big Sky Publishing, Australia, 2024
Cover and internal design by Cheri Hughes

Aleesah Darlison’s Super Sloth series will appeal to the legions of super-hero and intergalactic wars fans. With its mostly anthropomorphic characters, the story is a classic good versus evil tale, of the sort that fantasy readers embrace (as do readers of adult crime).

Aleesha Darlison talks to Barbie about Revenge of the Chick-Oats

The author and artist have made sure to create characters from animals with broad appeal – Romeo the sloth, Ham the pig and Tulip the cheetah. The young female human lead is Beth Castlemaine, a gusty character who comes with a troubled personal history (also akin to many detectives in adult crime).

Together, the team members tackle the mad scientist Professor Ian Weird-Warp (also human) as he employs his hybrid creations the chick-oats (half chicken half goat) to wreak destruction on the good citizens of New York city.

While the characters have super-powers on which to draw, it is their essentially good human character traits of dedication to team work and care for each other and the wider community that enable their success. No-one is left behind in the catastrophic situations they face.

And thus it is that many contemporary social issues can be packed into this junior fiction without apparent didacticism. Here the author and illustrator show us the importance of family and found family.

They touch on the moral questions of science in the way that inventions can be used for good or ill. They treat us to scenes where discussion and compromise are needed for plans to work. They show us failure and tenacity.

Children will enjoy the fast-moving plot and the quirky characters in this series and will no doubt absorb some of the quiet messaging without necessarily being conscious of it. The New York city setting is designed to give the book international appeal, but also injects a sense of exoticism for Australian readers – after all the city does come with its own reputation and history.

Book 3 is in production as I write and will certainly be awaited with eager anticipation by young readers and by teachers and librarians on the look -out for accessible page turners for their story thirsty charges.

Thank you to Big Sky Publishing for my review copy and to Aleesah for chatting with me about children’s fiction and this book.