Published by Stripes Publishing, 2019.
The International Yeti Collective begins in the Himalayan Mountains where Ella is spending her summer holidays with her Uncle Jack. He’s a famous tv presenter and explorer and he’s on the trail of the yeti. Ella is excited to join him and be part of the search. However, her enthusiasm soon gives way to doubts as she realises that these secretive creatures might not actually want to be found. Her misgivings are deepened further by her uncle’s ruthless behaviour. Jack’s motivation becomes less and less about a breakthrough in natural history and more to do with personal glory and ambition. From her position behind the scenes, Ella sees the artificiality of the TV programme and how Jack repeatedly fakes scenarios to cast himself in the light of intrepid, pioneering explorer.
The story is told as a split narrative and I really liked this. Some chapters are from Ella’s perspective and others are told from the point of view of the yetis, in particular a young yeti called Tick. Tick has his own personal reasons to be interested in humans: years ago his mom (Jiffi) was banished from the sett because she interacted with humans – something which is strictly forbidden in yeti law. Tick wants to understand what compelled his mother to break the rules and consequently he’s drawn towards Ella and the other humans with her in the mountains. Tick gets too close to their camp and, unintentionally, his actions set off a series of events that will threaten the existence of yeti all over the world.
You see, the sett of mountain yeti that Tick belongs to are not the only yeti in the book. Paul Mason has drawn on the worldwide myths of yeti and Bigfoot and his story incorporates groups of these ape-like creatures from all over the world. They are referred to by the names they are given in their native countries: sasquatch, yowie, and the mande barung, for example. Each sett is part of the Collective and there’s a great map at the back of the book showing the locations of all the different groups.
These yeti are a gentle, secretive species living hidden away and surviving on a vegetarian diet. Crucially, they play a vital role in sustaining nature. Each sett is responsible for caring for a particular species, habitat or natural process – pollination, seed dispersal, and so on. The book has a very strong message about environmental responsibility. Paul Mason makes it very clear how intricately linked everything is on Earth. There’s a fine balance in nature which can easily be upset. The yetis’ preservation of nature is contrasted starkly with scenes of human destruction as vast swathes of forest are burnt to the ground and cleared by humans for the production of palm oil.
I also liked how the book shows us the importance of always hearing both sides of a story. We see how wrong it was to banish Tick’s mother without ever giving her chance to explain her actions. The yetis also come to understand how it’s sometimes necessary to question ancient wisdom and to update laws as knowledge and circumstances change. Jiffi teaches us a wonderful life lesson too: “We all make mistakes in life… It’s how you respond to them that counts.”
I really enjoyed the book’s humour, the yeti’s names especially. Some of my favourites are Dunkk (she who dips biscuits), Mooch (he who wanders aimlessly) and Aspp (she with venomous tongue). The book is beautifully illustrated throughout by Katy Riddell. Her pen-and-ink drawings bring the yeti and their world to life.
The International Yeti Collective is a powerful and important book. At a time of devastating climate change, it will strike a chord with young readers only too aware of the fragility of their future.
Suitable for children aged 8+
Thank you to Stripes Publishing for sending me this book to review. I reviewed it as part of The International Yeti Collective blog tour where I featured an exclusive preview of one of the book’s illustrations by Katy Riddell. Click here to see it.