In this comedy/horror chapter book, a boy sleepwalks into another world where he must fight a demon.
The night before starting sixth grade, Brady is nervous and can’t sleep. What if other kids hate him, or ignore him, or give him a horrible nickname? “Oh no—they were going to call him Snotface. It was official,” he worries. Finally drifting off, Brady finds himself standing asleep before his mirror, which summons his spirit into another world. A sinister demon tells Brady that he can’t go home until he completes a quest: return the demon’s lost pet beast, Sheila, from the Dangerous Forest. Journeying and noting events in his diary, Brady meets elflike creatures called the Ground Folk, who were chased into the Forest by the demon. They address Brady as “The One.” The Great Elder proposes that Brady act as a Trojan horse and attack the demon with the aid of Sheila, and the Ground Folk will join in. But this plan goes awry, and the Folk, with Brady, retreat to Horizon City. When the demon attacks the city at the head of an army of Molts, similar to dwarves, a fierce battle ensues. With the help of the wise Lady of the City, Brady must test his bravery before returning home to his bed and sixth grade. Shah (Adult Coloring Book Horror Land: Devil’s Child, 2017, etc.) leaves behind his usual comedy gross-out theme for this equally entertaining fantasy adventure. Though the book leans on standard tropes (the portal, the quest, the prophesied savior), Shah doesn’t take them too seriously. Instead, the tropes serve as a framework for comedy, of which there’s plenty, and for Brady’s personal growth. This means not just becoming braver, but more empathetic. When Brady sees his friend Lym and other Ground Folk joining the fight against the demon, he realizes that “I couldn’t let her fight. As brave as she was, she wouldn’t survive.” With new determination, he confronts the demon head-on. Sixth grade will be peanuts.
Comic adventures and serious courage mix well in this middle-grade novel.