A superior alternative to Goosebumps for elementary-age chill-seekers.


From the Monster Itch series , Vol. 1

A monster allergy may ruin Alex’s visit to his grandparents’.

Alex and his cousin Sarah are spending a week visiting their grandparents in their grandparents’ new house…except the house is very old. It is likely haunted, and that was actually a selling point for Alex’s writer grandmother and artist grandfather, who together write the twisted and scary comic book Little Grendella. The whole family appears to be white. When he enters his room, Alex has an immediate allergic reaction…but when he tries to duplicate the reaction in front of Sarah and his grandparents, nothing happens. The strange rash on his arms reappears later, and it becomes obvious he is allergic to a ghost that’s haunting the house. Only Sarah and Alex can see the strange phantom, and it can write in the rash on Alex’s arm (unsurprisingly, this does not feel good). The duo decides to clear up the business that is keeping the ghost on Earth. Can they do it alone? This ghost story kicks off Lubar’s new series of light spooky tales à la his Monsterrific Tales, though for a younger audience. Customarily excellent writing at the sentence level unspools an undemanding adventure carefully pitched to his audience. What’s light, foolish, and transparent to adults will be enjoyable to youngsters seeking slight chills with a smile or two along the way.

A superior alternative to Goosebumps for elementary-age chill-seekers. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-87348-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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Science at its best: informative and gross.


Why not? Because “IT’S FULL OF GERMS.”

Of course, Ben-Barak rightly notes, so is everything else—from your socks to the top of Mount Everest. Just to demonstrate, he invites readers to undertake an exploratory adventure (only partly imaginary): First touch a certain seemingly blank spot on the page to pick up a microbe named Min, then in turn touch teeth, shirt, and navel to pick up Rae, Dennis, and Jake. In the process, readers watch crews of other microbes digging cavities (“Hey kid, brush your teeth less”), spreading “lovely filth,” and chowing down on huge rafts of dead skin. For the illustrations, Frost places dialogue balloons and small googly-eyed cartoon blobs of diverse shape and color onto Rundgren’s photographs, taken using a scanning electron microscope, of the fantastically rugged surfaces of seemingly smooth paper, a tooth, textile fibers, and the jumbled crevasses in a belly button. The tour concludes with more formal introductions and profiles for Min and the others: E. coli, Streptococcus, Aspergillus niger, and Corynebacteria. “Where will you take Min tomorrow?” the author asks teasingly. Maybe the nearest bar of soap.

Science at its best: informative and gross. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-17536-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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This mix of narrative fact and anthropomorphized visual fancy fails to add up.



Borstlap examines the roles that microbes play everywhere on Earth and touches on their potential for solving human-created problems like plastic waste.

Initial double-page spreads focus on the microscopic size and wide-ranging distribution of microbes throughout the planet. “They live on your body and on every imaginable thing throughout the world…and they can even live 3 miles (5 km) below the earth.” A clunky analogy posits that “if we could fit all the people on Earth into a single teacup,… / …we would need a big container for all the world’s microbes!” Highly stylized illustrations fail to redeem this vagueness(possibly due in part to the uncredited translation from French), presenting the “container” as a large rectangular box decorated with confettilike splotches. More effective spreads pair arresting facts with the capricious, cartoonlike graphics. Microbes can “create families in less than an hour.” (A digital timer clocks 59 minutes above a microbe “family” peppered with wailing offspring.) Some microbes can feed on metal: Borstlap illustrates this fact with a series of toothy mouths chomping on nuts and bolts. Readers visit the cross-sectioned colon of a human (on a toilet, with a cellphone) and glean a bit about microbes’ roles in food production, natural recycling, and prospects for sustainable energy and plastics production. The complex language in eight concluding pages of factual material contrasts markedly with the text’s up-tempo tone. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

This mix of narrative fact and anthropomorphized visual fancy fails to add up. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-3-7913-7497-0

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Prestel

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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