The Marvelous Land of the Snergs by Veronica Cossanteli

A book said to have been an influence on J.R.R. Tolkien, this tale of abandoned children and fantastical beings is pure delight. Witches, ogres, magical animals and hobbit-like beings populate this bright and amusing story.

The Marvelous Land of Snergs by Veronica Cossanteli
Europa Editions
Paperback | $17.99
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This is a reimagining of a classic work by A. Wyke-Smith which is said to have influenced J.R.R. Tolkien. It is a wonderful journey through an enchanted world of witches, ogres, hobbit-like beings and neglected children cared for by a mysterious protector. This reader is put in mind of the more recent tales Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children and the Lemony Snicket Series of Unfortunate Events books, both of which resemble it in superficial ways. The similarities in no way diminish the charm or pleasure derived from any of these.


Two children of neglectful and abusive parents find themselves lodged at the Sunny Bay Home for Accidentally Parentless Children with Miss Watkyns, a strict but kind woman who cares for many such luckless youth. Pip, son of a cruel circus performer and Flora, daughter of an emotionally distant socialite form a bond when they arrive at Sunny Bay at the same time, although they could not be more different from each other. Pip is illiterate, his father never having thought that reading would be important to a trapeze artist, and Flora is traumatized to the extent that she utters not a single sound. They are frequently called into Miss Watkyn’s office for infractions of the strict codes of behavior imposed upon the Accidentally Parentless Children. After one such transgression they are given an odious task by way of punishment when their fellows are having a picnic at the shore. As they are hauling a heavy bag of vegetables to the crew of the ship The Flying Dutchman, captained by Captain Vanderdecken, they are accosted by a mysterious woman in purple who abducts Flora and leads Pip to a gateway into the land of the Snergs, a diminutive folk who live concealed in a magic forest. What follows is an adventure replete with monsters, villains, perceived enemies and eventual redemption.


The landscape, characters and events are all thrilling and amusing, and the telling of the tale is a delight to read. It should find a place with readers of all types of fantasy, although it is intended for younger children. Like many books directed at youthful readers, adults can find much to enjoy in its pages. The narrative is accompanied by whimsical illustrations by Melissa Castrillon which add immensely to the charm. The language is simple and the peril is appropriately mild considering the intended audience with a few instances of elaborate words explained in straightforward terms for those with vocabularies less fully formed. This reader would recommend it to anyone who is willing to suspend “serious” literary criticism and surrender to a wonderful, colorful tale told with verve.