Occasional yuks and hints of an overarching plotline at the end aren’t enough to keep this phoned-in entry in a Wimpy Kid–knockoff series above ground.
Following misadventures with Wonkenstein (2011) and Potterwookiee (2012), Rob takes the third literary-mashup action figure to emerge from his closet in stride. This is particularly easy, as, aside from one school visit, the hybrid marionette/vampire is a reclusive wood biter who prefers to hide out in an empty house and turns more puppetlike with every compulsive fib. Meanwhile, Rob comments at length on the foibles of his weird family and friends just as he did in previous episodes and joins a book club that improbably reads Pinocchio aloud in just one session (he gets through Dracula with similar alacrity). Thanks to a mouth with a mind of its own, he also invites heartthrob neighbor Janae and 10 other schoolmates to ride to the upcoming middle school dance in a nonexistent limo. Delivered in journal entries with dialogue and punch lines mouthed by the line-drawn cartoon figures on every page, Rob’s narrative ambles its way past a parental save (his dad unexpectedly drives up in a rented limo) to an abject general apology. Refreshed by a short burial in the park, Pinocula then returns to the magic closet, leaving behind his bat/cricket sidekick as a memento.
Neither Rob’s guilt pangs nor Pinocula’s near reversion to wood add much force to the superficial anti-lying message, and the premise, third time through, has gone as stale as the jokes. (Fantasy. 9-11)