Glister – The Family Tree, the final volume in a great series

Published On April 6, 2010 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Glister – The Family Tree

by Andi Watson

Walker Books

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The fourth and final (at least for now) tale in Andi Watson’s saga of Glister Butterworth; who is, as I said back in my review of Glister: The Haunted Teapot:

……a strange magnet. …. wherever she goes, strange things happen around her. She lives with her dad, Mr Butterworth, in a dilapidated, draughty, ramshackle old home called Chilblain Hall that really does have a mind of it’s own, complete with rooms that come and go as they please, Trolls in the wishing wells, String Quartets in the salon and Questing Elves and Dwarves renting the dungeons at 10 gold pieces an hour. (But you shouldn’t ever let it hear you calling it ramshackle – it may leave).

With these four volumes of Glister Andi Watson’s genuinely created something rather magical; “interesting, funny and cool comics for girls“. And that’s not me saying that, that was the quote Molly came up with after finishing The Family Tree, and she’s 10 so knows all about cool stuff (yep, she wanted that included as well).

Following the quite magnificent third volume The Faerie Host where Watson successfully managed the perfect balancing act between sentimental, heartbreaking emotion and a great story wrapped up in all the quirkiness we’ve come to expect from Glister, it’s no surprise that this final volume, with a return to the more straightforward quirkiness of the character, is a slight let down.

And although it may not reach the heights of the previous volume it’s still a beautifully drawn, wonderfully strange little read, packed to the brim with quirkiness. This time around Glister has taken to wishing for relatives, after studying her family tree and imagining how wonderful it would be to be surrounded by Butterworths of all shapes and sizes.

(The Butterworth Family Tree, useful for generating an instant family, but Glister may not get the perfect family she’s wishing for. From Glister: The Family Tree by Andi Watson, published Walker Books.)

There’s good news and bad news for Glister; the good news is that the Butterworth’s have a very real, “ancient and extraordinary” family tree, right there in the orchard, and it’s said that when the Butterworth family tree blooms it brings forth the most remarkable crop of Butterworths; past, present and future.

The bad news is that the Butterworth’s may be an extraordinary family but they’re still a family, and just like normal families they row, fall out, play their music too loud, keep messing up the place with their insect collections, and insist on herding their rabbit flock through the main hall. Glister finds herself having  to deal with it all, including one ancestor determined to turn Chilblain Hall into a tourist attraction, which almost leads to calamity with not only the family but Chilblain Hall being ripped apart in the struggle.

(Just a few of those oh so troublesome Butterworths who manage to make Glister’s life a misery. From Glister: The Family Tree by Andi Watson, published Walker Books.)

Glister The Family Tree is a suitably fitting wacky and funny ending to this Glister quartet of books, an absolutely charming, beautifully drawn series featuring a wonderfully inventive, eccentric and downright cool female heroine. It’s great for children, especially young girls, but has equal appeal to any existing fan of Watson’s work, or any fan of really great comics. If there are to be no more Glister volumes it’s a terrible shame, but these four beautifully presented little works of a cartoonist absolutely at the peak of his game are something you really need to treat your bookshelf to.

(The opening page to each Glister volume riffs off the same idea, but each time there’s a new way to raise a smile. From Glister: The Family Tree by Andi Watson, published Walker Books.)

Each Glister book stands alone, all you need to thoroughly enjoy each one is found on the back cover and Watson’s ever inventive first page with a new list of why strange things happen around Glister Butterworth.

But when you read one, you’ll want all four, and then you’ll wonder what else this Andi Watson has done and discover that he doesn’t just write and draw these excellent children’s books but he’s done a series of magnificent graphic novels for grown ups as well. And before you know it, you’ll be wondering why he isn’t a damn sight more well known than he is and you’ll find yourself nodding in agreement when I repeatedly use the phrase “the best young cartoonist in Britain right now”.

For previous reviews and more Andi Watson work, see here. And there’s more Glister and Andi Watson at his website.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

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