The Monkeyface Chronicles

By (author): Richard Scarsbrook

Philip Skyler, the main character in the novel, seems to be inferior when compared to his handsome and popular twin brother, Michael, in the eyes of his family, teachers and schoolmates. His rare genetic mutation, explained by his nickname, has caused his unfortunate appearance.  Even though he seems to be a misfit in the family and community, it turns out that he is the only one who remains true to himself and to others. The book touches on such topics as bullying, family dysfunction, fundamental religious practices and friendship against all odds. Monkeyface’s journey, from a bullied and disfigured grade eight student to the motorcycling accident that changes his life, is propelled by his strong character, his athletic ability despite his appearance and by his family dynamic in which nothing is what it seems at the beginning. Philip ends his quest unscathed by the many causes and effects his life puts him through. The Monkeyface Chronicles is a profound novel and an amazing page turner about human values, in which every reader finds a bit of Monkeyface in him/herself.


Richard Scarsbrook

Richard Scarsbrook grew up in the tiny rural community of Olinda, Ontario. He lived and taught in Petrolla for nearly a decade, where he acted, directed, and served as a member of the board of directors for the community theatre. In Petrolia, he also wrote original songs, and played the drums and sang in a band called The Know. He also began publishing his first short stories and poems at this time. Scarsbrook now makes his home in Toronto where he teaches creative writing courses at Humber Colege and George Brown College. He also plays and sings in the rock bands The Featherless Bipeds, The Nerve, and Disorderly Conduct, and has performed in venues such as The Rivoli, The Guverment, Healey’s Roadhouse, The Opera House, The Tattoo Rock Parlour, The Royal York Hotel, The Hard Rock Cafe and The Black Swan (all in Toronto), The Hard Rock Cafe and The Liquor Store Bar in Ottawa, and The Just For Laughs Studio in Montreal. Scarsbrook’s fiction and poetry have appeared in journals and Magazines in Canada and internationally including The Guardian Unlimited (UK), The FISH Anthology (Ireland), Verbicide (US), Prairie Fire, Descant, Matrix, Carousel, The Dalhousie Review, PRECIPICe, Rampike, Storyteller, The New Orphic Review, The Nashwaak Review, The Harpweaver, The Backwater Review, NeWest Review, Lies With Occasional Truth, The Moose and Pussy, Jones Avenue, Surface and Symbol, and Zygote. His stories and poems have won praise and prizes including the 1998 Hinterland Award for Prose, the 2001 New Orphic Short Story Prize, the 2001 Scarborough Arts Council Poetry Prize, the 2002 Lawrence House Centre for the Arts Short Story Prize, and the 2009 Matrix LitPop Award for Fiction. His first book publication was Guessing at Madeleine, a collection of poems which won the 1996 Cranberry Tree Press Poetry Prize. Scarsbrook’s first novel, Cheeseburger Subversive (Thistledown Press), 2003) received positive reviews and great reader response.  Renowned author W.P. Kinsella (Shoeless Joe, Dance Me Outside), wrote this in Books in Canada: “Cheeseburger Subversive is a coming of age story written with humour and panache. Scarsbrook has a special eye for the absurd, a wonderful way of looking at the world that turns tragedy into humor. A very funny and heart-warming debut.” Cheeseburger Subversive was short listed for The Canadian Library Association’s 2004 Young Adult Book of the Year Award, The Ontario Library Association’s 2005 White Pine Award, and the 2005 Stellar Book Award. Featherless Bipeds ( Thistledown ,2006), its sequel, was also short-listed for short listed for the Canadian Library Association’s 2007 Young Adult Book of the Year Award, and listed for the 2008/2009 Stellar Book Award.  Storyteller: Canada’s Short Story Magazine wrote: “Featherless Bipeds remains at all times as tightly focused as the best short stories…Fans of live pop music will enjoy Scarsbrook’s wonderful evocations of the characters, venues, trials, and successes of such a career, as well as the experience of making music, both onstage and off. ” Scarsbrook’s latest novel The Monkeyface Chronicles won the 2011 Ontario Library Association’s White Pine Award. CM Magazine called the book a “multi-layered, engrossing, complex tale”, and Resource Links said “Scarsbrook is an excellent writer with great comic overtones”.  A review by author Ann Ewan (Firedrake, Brondings’ Honour) said of The Monkeyface Chronicles, “It reminds me of the books of Paul Quarrington and John Irving, creating an over-the-top yet close-to-real world.” 


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In his third novel, Richard Scarsbrook returns to the fictional Faireville of his previous novels Cheeseburger Subversive (2003) and Featherless Bipeds (2006) to present Philip Skyler in a three part chronicle: his eighth-grade introduction to public school, his twelfth-grade challenges, and his recovery from a life-threatening motorcycle accident. The reader meets Philip the day he turns 13 in his family environment and at school where he falls victim to the school bullies, two of whom are the sons of Mr. Brush, the school principle, who deliver a vicious version of the outlawed “Birthday Beats.” Accompanied by his mom and grandfather, Philip reluctantly returns to the school to meet with the administration. When challenged by grandfather Skyler, the principal asks students to verify the account as filed. To Philip’s shock, two students find the courage to detail events as they actually happened, the other students corroborate their version, and the principle is forced to process an “Official Notice of Suspension” for his sons. The bullies and their entourage continue to make life difficult, but Philip learns to handle them and survive his immersion into public school after years of home-schooling that shielded him from the inevitable cruelty of his peers. When the chronicle resumes five years later, Philip has established a network of friends, collected a girlfriend, achieved considerable recognition for his academic abilities, and plays regularly for the school hockey on its way to the playoffs. Scarsbrook reveals the Skyler family dysfunction throughout the chronicle recording an uninvolved father, a doting mother, and the ever-present aphorism-spouting grandfather. Unfortunately, Philip’s senior year at high school turns tragic when, thanks to a vicious, deliberate hit by the Brush brothers, his brother Michael suffers a broken neck, shattered vertebrae, severe concussion, and lies near death in hospital. Distraught at his brother’s condition, Philip discovers vandals have destroyed his home, and then he receives a further shock when he overhears a loud altercation between his father and grandfather about his paternity. He tears away from the scene on his father’s motorcycle, crashes, somehow survives, and endures months of surgeries, therapy, and rehabilitation, often in a drug-induced, pain controlling fog. When he finally gains release from the medical world two years later, Philip has a new face, a new voice, and a healed body, but he feels the need to reunite with his family and his Faireville life. Returning home to a celebration with his family, Philip is overwhelmed by events and exits the scene to reunite with former classmates and his town. Scarsbrook concludes the novel ten years down the road with the aphorism, “Live well. It is the greatest revenge.” The multi-layered, engrossing, complex tale reveals a unique coming-of-age novel peopled by characters whose strengths and weaknesses form a framework for the plot twists. Densely packed with topics, the novel considers dysfunctional families, peer pressure, physical deformities, religious fanaticism, bullying, political gamesmanship, competitive athletics, medical disorders, questionable business practices, revenge, appearance-versus-reality, social misfits, among others.  Philip, as first-person narrator,provides the reader with details of daily life, with memorable, not necessarily admirable characters, and with plenty of action while imparting his personal observations and revealing his evolving philosophy of life. Scarsbrook carefully designs a protagonist who is modest, sees humour among the absurdities and struggles of daily life, manages the restrictions imposed by his facial deformity, and insightfully evaluates himself, his family, and his community. Well-paced prose infused with light humour produces some memorable scenes that resonate with credibility. Brisk, realistic dialogue reflects the author’s years of listening to student chatter as an elementary, secondary, and college level teacher. Author, songwriter, actor, musician, Scarsbrook seamlessly incorporates several previously published short stories as chapters in the novel, linking them effectively with the plot. In remarkable, keenly observed detail, he excels at capturing ordinary and extraordinary moments of life in a tale to engage and entertain readers of any age. The Monkeyface Chronicles is not an easy read, but it amply rewards those who persevere.

Reader Reviews



307 Pages


January 15, 2012


Thistledown Press



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