Seasoned fourth-grade monster hunters Carlos and Benny find heaping helpings of horror in the lunchroom.
Cued by a spectacular transformation on the lenticular cover, the sudden replacement of Monterrosa Elementary’s formerly motherly lunch ladies with thinly disguised giant praying mantises is just the beginning of disturbing changes. It seems that while the boys are now getting all the fattening fast food they can handle, the formerly well-adjusted girls, even monster-hunting ally Tina, are being fed a revolting glop made from bugs that has them mouthing off, becoming physically aggressive, and eyeing boys—hungrily. Further spurred by the disappearances of several younger (male) students, the sleuths enlist the help of gung-ho comics-store owner (and wheelchair-using Samoan ex-wrestler) Mrs. Tamasese in a desperate ploy to expose the culinary cabal. Along with trotting in a cast of exemplary diversity (in a departure, Latino Carlos narrates, while white boy Benny acts as best pal), Hale spins the scenario in such wild and hilarious directions that even the climactic release of whole garbage bags full of roaches in the crowded lunchroom isn’t the grossest thing that happens. By the end, though, all is set more or less right amid discussions of gender expectations and claims of mass hallucinations.
“Freakity freaking freakiness!” (to quote Carlos) on a high and gleeful level. (Horror. 8-10)