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BOY OR BEAST by Bob Balaban


From the Creature from the 7th Grade series, volume 1

by Bob Balaban ; illustrated by Andy Rash

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-670-01271-8
Publisher: Viking

Charles is 12, unpopular, bullied, small and geeky—and to make matters worse, he’s turning into a giant reptile.

Charles relates, with wit and pathos, his Kafka-esque metamorphosis from angst-ridden pubescent to dinosaur. As his skin turns green and a tail sprouts, Charles is utterly dismayed, “Forget about being popular. At this point I would happily settle for human.” His two best friends, Lucille and Sam, also outcasts, seem rather thrilled at Charles’ change. He grapples with the difficulties of being a huge reptile, finding clothing and sitting at a desk problematic. Bizarrely, though, not only can he still talk, he still has his own voice. At school, despite continued bullying from his nemesis, Craig, Charles begins to enjoy celebrity status, and Amy, the most popular girl in the school, starts fussing over him. Charles gets utterly swept up in this new sensation and in so doing loses perspective on where his loyalties lie. When he’s challenged to betray his best friends, Charles faces the monster inside himself. With occasional comic drawings and lots of humor regarding life as a dinosaur among humans (such as the scale of reptile farts), this romp is a balm for anyone who’s ever felt awkward in their own scales err, skin. Charles’ first-person narration reveals an anthropologist’s eye for the social strata of middle school.

A wacky story of loyalty and self-discovery. (Fantasy. 8-12)