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From the Middle School Bites series, volume 1

by Steven Banks ; illustrated by Mark Fearing

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: Feb. 4th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-8234-4543-1
Publisher: Holiday House

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)