This series opener is a howling good time.

MIDDLE SCHOOL BITES

From the Middle School Bites series , Vol. 1

All Tom Marks wants is to be an ordinary kid—invisible, in fact. But it’s hard to be invisible when you’re a Vam-Wolf-Zom.

Tom’s many plans for middle school include the “Girlfriend Plan,” the “Easy Grade in Art Class Plan,” and, most importantly, the “Invisible Tom Plan.” He does not, naturally, have a “What If I Turn into a Vampire-Werewolf-Zombie Plan.” The day before school starts, however, what should be a perfectly routine visit to his grandmother’s cabin in the woods goes horribly awry, as he is bitten by a bat, a mangy dog, and what seems to be an eerily lifelike zombie prop within the span of several hours. Now Tom must juggle disturbing physical changes alongside tough classes, locker sharing, friendships old and new, a persistent bully with an unfortunate home life, and the ubiquitous desire for acceptance. Tom’s first-person narration is frank and engaging; much of the novel’s humor arises from his wry, self-aware commentary. A good portion of the remaining humor is drawn from Fearing’s grayscale spot cartoons, with their exaggerated facial expressions and exquisitely scratchy details. The monstrous premise, though admittedly far-fetched (so much so that its being far-fetched is directly addressed in a prologue), adds a delightful twist to the classic navigating-middle-school plot. The colorful personalities of Tom’s family, classmates, and teachers further enrich this not-so-spooky saga. The cast defaults white.

This series opener is a howling good time. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4543-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart.

THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH AND THE ZOMBIE PARADE

From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 2

Thirteen-year-old Jack Sullivan and his crew of monster-fighting besties are fresh off their victorious battle against the evil Blarg, but there’s no rest for the weary in the middle of a Monster Apocalypse.

First, Joe’s Pizza has become the local monster hangout. And second, the zombies seem to be disappearing. Thankfully, the white boy, his not-so-secret Latina love, June Del Toro, his African-American, science-nerd best friend, Quint, and pre-apocalypse bully–turned-ally Dirk, a large white boy who loves to garden, befriend a man-monster who might have the answers to everything. Equal parts humor, adventure, and warmth, the book offers fans of the series and new readers alike an entirely agreeable outing. Jack’s witty narration and Holgate’s pitch-perfect illustrations make for a terrific read that’s particularly well suited for middle-grade boys who might otherwise be reluctant to pick up a book. There are plenty of foul-smelling, brain-sucking monsters and gizmos and gadgets to delight, but at its core, this is a story about friendship. Orphaned at birth and raised by a foster family he describes as jerks, Jack has always longed for a family of his own. Now that he has one, the only thing scarier than the monsters is the thought of losing them.

An apocalyptic adventure with a whole lot of heart. (Horror. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-01662-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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