A New Mexico middle schooler’s incautious use of a mysterious new art-room printer sets off a plague of bad-tempered monsters in this riotous series opener.
Inspired by the three bullies who have harassed him unmercifully since his arrival in Gallup, the toy-sized plastic monsters that Freddie Liddle, a white boy, designs not only hop down from the 3-D printer, but absorb water like sponges, swell hugely in size, and lumber off on wildly destructive rampages. “Holy freakin’ crudballs!” as his friend Manny Vasquez eloquently puts it. Convinced by Manny’s (rather questionable) assertion that it “takes a bully to fight a bully,” Freddie resolutely sets out to recruit his tormenters—Jordan the jock (depicted in the illustrations with dark skin), drama queen Nina (black), and “mega-nerd” Quincy (white)—to help neutralize the roaring, superpowered beasts. Kloepfer (Into the Dorkness, 2015, etc.) concocts a mad scramble that Oliver decorates with lurid drawings of toothy, glaring monsters and, to take them on, a squad of kids notable for its comical diversity of body size and shape. Latino Manny (cued by name) and illustrations reflecting skin tone excepted, Gallup’s racial and ethnic diversity goes largely unexplored, a particular travesty given that the 40 percent Native American town calls itself “the Indian Capital of the World.” By the end the unlikely allies have formed an uneasy bond, with shrunken but still active monsters in their backpacks and a printer that Freddie has cannily hidden in his locker to set up sequels.
Gives 3-D printing a whole new dimension (just add water). (Fantasy. 9-12)