From Shein (Gods and Angels, 2013) and Gates comes the YA tale of a family for whom cryptozoology is a way of life.
Ninth-grader Cromwell “Crow” Monsterjunkie lives with his family near Foggy Point, Maine. His parents, Talon and Pandora, use their mansion as a sanctuary for rare and endangered creatures, including Beau the sasquatch, Chico the chupacabra and Periwinkle the pterodactyl. Quiet Crow doesn’t make friends easily—unlike his older sister, Indigo—partly because of the burden of secrecy that comes with being a Monsterjunkie; if the public knew about their rare creatures, chaos might descend on the family. And yet, since adolescence comes with enough inner turmoil, Talon and Pandora allow their children to begin inviting small groups of trusted friends to tour their elaborate property, which has a laboratory, Varmint Hollow and the Weird Willow tree. Life grows tense, however, when a group of bullying classmates, led by the viciously entitled Ruth Grimes, start targeting Crow, Indigo and their new friends. Worse, in an attempt to make the town safer for real Americans, Ruth’s wealthy father decides to stir up trouble for the animal-loving Monsterjunkies. In dealing with the bullies, Crow must choose to either sink to their level or rise above it, his family’s secrets at stake. Herpetologist Shein and co-author Gates wrap a classic tale of conformity in some gorgeously gothic paper. Sprinkled throughout are great tidbits of cryptozoology: “The gorilla and the giant squid were both thought to be myths, yet in fact, are quite real.” Lighthearted humor is the primary tone elsewhere; Beau the eloquent sasquatch, for example, says he was “frankly, well, a little embarrassed” to be naked while scaring some trespassers. Later, the authors hope to rally the parents of actual bullied children—whether it involves common nastiness or homophobia—with the advice that “all it takes is a heroic kid to step in...to disrupt the situation.” Facebook bullying, unfortunately, proves tougher to handle. Though the ending feels abrupt, a second book awaits fans craving another fix of Crow and company.
Warm, smart and educational.