With both cleanliness and educational function at stake, a government agency and a rebel faction duke it out in the halls, restrooms and classrooms of an Idaho elementary school.
For centuries the Bureau of Educational Maintenance has trained wizard-janitors to fight the insidious, invisible, dirt-loving, brainwave-sucking “Toxites” (i.e., Rubbish, Grime and Filth) that infest every school and gleefully leach interest, attention and even consciousness from hapless students (now you know). Thanks to applications of a magical slime, hyper-fastidious Spencer and his gullible but steadier sixth-grade classmate Daisy find themselves able to see the revolting little monsters all around them. They become caught between a cohort of BEM agents after supposed mavericks and two fugitive custodians who claim that BEM has, for never-explained reasons, turned traitor to its principles. Who is to be believed? Choosing a side, Spencer and Daisy train with Toxite-killing brooms, mops and vacuum cleaners, and the clandestine battle escalates into a wildly destructive sequence of chases, break-ins and brangles. Whitesides, himself a former school custodian, commits rookie mistakes by suddenly dropping a major character (the obligatory bully) and sets up sequels by leaving too many basic questions unanswered. Still, his debut spins plenty of action, authentic janitorial detail and foul substances around an audience-pleasing premise.An implausible but entertaining ruckus: Squeamish readers may never touch a school water fountain again. (Fantasy. 10-13)