A 12-year-old boy is alarmed when his lawyer uncle’s new client turns out to be a fire-breathing dragon in Newhouse’s (Alice in Batsylvania, 2016, etc.) second middle-grade comic-fantasy series installment.
Young Brodie is just beginning to adjust to life in the unusual town of Monstrovia. His divorced parents are still away (Mom’s in China, Dad’s in the military), so he’s staying with his Uncle Jasper, one of the few other humans in the city and an attorney to trolls, giants, and all manner of beings out of folktales, fairy tales, and myth. In the series debut, Brodie provided a clue that enabled Jasper to help Jack (of “Jack and the Beanstalk” fame) avoid a giant-killing murder rap. Now Jasper is enlisting Brodie to help in his next case, involving a fuzzy-cheeked, fire-breathing Serpentake (a rare type of dragon) and his offspring, who are being evicted from their ancestral forest home to make way for a dump. Newhouse treats readers to an inventive world of literature-referencing wackiness, including bear-headed peacekeepers; the late Wicked Witch of the West’s flying monkeys, now freelancing as thuggish enforcers; the Big Bad Wolf’s lawyer brother; a speed-obsessed cabbie in a car shaped like a mushroom; a “wacked-out computer” called “the Brain,” controlled by thoughts and emotions; and much more. Brodie is portrayed as much more than just a human foil for the nonhuman shenanigans, however. As the story progresses, so does the protagonist’s deepening understanding of himself and others, helped by his growing sympathy for the Serpentake’s chaos-causing dragon babies and his friendship with Emily Beanstalk, Jack’s “humanoid” and “good percentage fictional” sister. Throughout, Newhouse never loses sight of Brodie’s shifting perspective, skillfully weaving the plot around the believably prickly, puzzle-loving young protagonist.
This entry, infused with sly humor and anchored by a relatable hero, doesn’t disappoint.