Tag Archives: genre: horror

Night of the Frankenfrogs Review

creeps_1Night of the Frankenfrogs (The Creeps #1) by Chris Schweizer

Harry N. Abrams, 2015. 978-1419717666

Synopsis: In Pumpkins County, weird things happen every day, but nobody ever makes a fuss. Nobody, that is, except the Creeps: Carol, a big-city girl new to Pumpkins County, who finds kindred spirits in Mitchell (monster expert), Jarvis (military brat with logistics know-how), and Rosario (girly girl on the outside, muscle underneath). The Creeps are on the case to figure out the spooky mysteries and still get to class on time. Last week it was a pudding monster. This week, it’s killer frogs—reanimated from the team’s biology class dissection experiment. Who’s behind the Frankenfrog attacks? The Creeps will track down the answers! from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: It’s the time of year for some creepy/scary stories!

Why I finished it: Schweizer has a gift for creating memorable and realistic characters that seem to jump off the pages and his first book in The Creeps series is no exception. Set in a town where the strange, kooky, and spooky go largely unnoticed, four brave sleuths are out to save their town from the odd creatures that would seek to overtake it. It was amusing to me that Carol, Mitchell, Jarvis, and Rosario seem to operate with a sense of disbelief that the citizens of Pumpkins County would let such creatures as a Pudding Monster go unchecked. But what our gang lacks in support from their peers they more than make up for in their uncanny ability to connect all of the proverbial dots. The art is bright and fun to compliment the prose, and the use of pseudo day-glo colors makes the book wacky, humorous, and a quick read that will get you in the Halloween spirit!

Other related materials: The Trolls Will Feast (The Creeps #2) by Chris Schweizer; Curse of the Attack-O-Lanterns (The Creeps #3) by Chris Schweizer; The Crogan Adventures series by Chris Schweizer; The Notebook of Doom series by Troy Cummings; Brain Camp by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier; Harry Moon books by Mark Andrew Poe; Honey Moon books by Sofi Benitez; The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman; A Tale Dark & Grimm by Andrew Gidwitz; In A Glass Grimmly by Andrew Gidwitz; The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz

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Zombie Mommy Review

zombie_mommyZombie Mommy (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson; illustrations by Kurt Cyrus

Beach Lane Books, 2011. 978-1416986416

Synopsis: Not wanting any harm to come to her daughter, Mrs. Gefelty decides to take a vacation in Todburg, town of the Undead. She’s very concerned that Lily is going to end up sad and alone without a mother like one of the characters in all those assigned reading books she’s given at school. But upon her return, Lily finds that her mother isn’t actually her mother at all – she’s been possessed by a ghost who yearns to stage a stage and screen comeback that’s  (hundreds) of years overdue! Will Jasper’s new Astounding High-Pressure Holy Water Extruder Gun be enough to extract the ghost? How could Drgnan not realize that he and Katie were going out?! Is Katie’s cousin Madigan Westlake-Duvet part of the problem or part of the solution?

Why I picked it up: I’m enjoying the very serious degree to which this series takes its humor.

Why I finished it: If Agent Q was a spoof on spy novels, Zombie Mommy is a take on horror novels (evidenced at the start of Chapter 23, in which our author/narrator tells the reader this is, in fact, a horror novel. In case we hadn’t picked up on that in the previous 22 chapters.). The hilarity seems to ensue much faster than in the previous books, starting with the awkward conversation Lily and Mrs. Gefelty have about BOOKS and progressing to the rather haphazard journey Mrs. Gefelty takes to Todburg (which involves a lot of narrow escapes, mostly from a rather put-out tarantula). After a possessed Mrs. Gefelty’s return to Pelt, our heroes must go to Todburg themselves in order to investigate what exactly happened, in which more hilarity ensues – this time involving an unfunny comedian, the cast of Warm Bodies, and our same perturbed tarantula. I continue to be amused by the random footnotes and the wall breaks within the text that are likely intended to give the reader clarification, but the good intention is lost and the reader is left with a humorous anecdote instead. One particular gag involves Madigan’s clothing, which must be described in exact detail by a man who may or may not have his shirt on backwards. The action and the anecdotes are well timed, providing a sense of foreboding as well as hope that our heroes can find a way to exorcize the ghost inhabiting Mrs. Gefelty.  Cyrus’s illustrations continue to haunt and amuse the reader, using thick lines to give the art a somewhat gothic feel. Fans of the series will continue to enjoy the further adventures of Lily, Jasper, and Katie as they continue to fight for truth and knowledge…or something like that….

Other related materials: Whales on Stilts! (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; Jasper Dash and the Flame Pits of Delaware (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; Agent Q, or The Smell of Danger! (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; He Laughed With His Other Mouths (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson, illustrations by Kurt Cyrus; The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron; Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist books by Jim Benton; Cardboard by Doug TenNapel; The Wild Robot by Peter Brown; Ungifted by Gordon Korman

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The Poe Estate Review

the_poe_estateThe Poe Estate by Polly Schulman

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015. 978-0399166143

Synopsis: Sukie O’Dare is haunted. Literally. Since her sister Kitty died, her ghost has been hanging around keeping an eye on Sukie the same way she did when Kitty was alive. And if it weren’t for the fact that Kitty is still extremely overprotective, it might even be cool. But it’s not, and now everyone thinks Sukie is a spook. A spook that is being haunted by ghosts other than her sister; ghosts that won’t rest until Sukie has fulfilled their strange request.

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed the first two books in the series and I was eager to read more of Schulman’s work.

Why I finished it: While Schulman’s books have the luxury of being able to stand alone, some of the relationships with the characters and the events to which they refer will make more sense to you if you have read the other two books. That is one of the things that I like about this series: you get to find out what happens with the characters without a whole other book dedicated solely to them. I like Schulman’s take on the fantasy/horror/gothic novel genre and that this book is creepy without being too creepy. Sukie has had to deal with a lot since her sister Kitty as died, and readers who have lost someone close to them can understand a lot of her frustrations at the changes that are happening within her family. She’s having to make adjustments that aren’t exactly comfortable, especially when the spirit of her sister is stuck while Sukie continues to move forward. This theme about changes and moving forward is a central theme to the story that gets explored not only with Sukie, but her family ghosts as well. Spirits often need closure in one life before they can move on to the next, a problem Sukie seeks to tackle along with her friend Cole and the staff at the New-York Circulating Materials Repository. The mystery and the magic of the library once again plays a key role in aiding our protagonist in finding answers to a more urgent dilemma and also finding answers about who they are themselves. For me, it was a reminder that libraries are welcoming places where one can find the answers to almost any question we could have. It’s a fun and exciting story that will be enjoyed by both fantasy and gothic novel fans.

Other related materials: The Grimm Legacy by Polly Schulman; The Wells Bequest: A Companion to the Grimm Legacy by Polly Schulman; A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz; In A Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz; The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz; The Sisters Grimm books by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson; The Books of Elsewhere books by Jacqueline West; Secrets of the Book by Erin Fry; Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein; The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein; Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein; Wonderstruck by Brain Selznick; The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler; The Mad Apprentice by Django Wexler; The Palace of Glass by Django Wexler; When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; 13 Treasures Trilogy by Michelle Harrison

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Desmond Pucket and the Cloverfield Junior High Carnival of Horrors

desmond_pucket_3Desmond Pucket and the Cloverfield Junior High Carnival of Horrors by Mark Tatulli

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449466282.

Synopsis: New year, same school…or so Desmond thinks. Turns out his arch-nemesis Mr. Needles is now the Principal, Keith Schimsky (y’know, the younger brother of the lovely Tina) grew into a giant, and the annual Carnival of Horrors has been cancelled. But when he finds out that the librarian may lose her job, he hatches a plan that may just be able to save both the librarian and the school carnival.

Why I picked it up: Fun? Check. Funny? Check. Monsters? Check, check. What’s not to love?

Why I finished it: This series has earned a special place on my shelf because of its delightful mix of horror, humor, and heart. It makes me remember what it was like to be a kid pursuing their passions even if they seem to go against what everyone else likes. On the surface, Desmond may seem single-minded and lazy, but as a reader you know that he’s got good intentions. He has the ability to see a need and finds a way to use his talents to meet that need – even if scaring isn’t the optimal solution. Tatulli’s story once again comes alive in the art – whether it be Desmond’s scribbles or the intermittent illustrations between paragraphs. It’s another reason to like this series: the hybrid novel/graphic novel really expounds on the characters and their actions while giving the reader a visual point of reference for some of the tricks Desmond is using to make sure the show goes on. Highly imaginative and humorous, Desmond will continue to make magic with readers both on and off the page.

Other related materials: Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic by Mark Tatulli; Desmond Pucket and the Mountain Full of Monsters by Mark Tatulli; Lio’s Astonishing Tales: From the Haunted Crypt of Unknown Horrors by Mark Tatulli; The Odd Squad books by Michael Fry; Alien Invasion in my Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; The Ghostly Thief of Time: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; George Brown, Class Clown by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Aaron Blecha; My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish books by Mo O’Hara, illustrated by Marek Jagucki; Frank Einstein books by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Timmy Failure books by Stephen Pastis

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The Hanukkah Ghosts Review

hanukkah_ghostsThe Hanukkah Ghosts by Malka Penn

Holiday House, 1995. 978-0823411450

Synopsis: While her father is on a business trip, Susan is sent to England to spend Hanukkah with her great aunt Elizabeth. While she is exploring the castle and the surrounding moor, Susan begins to see things: there are horses in the stable that have not been there for years, a boy with a crutch who mistakes her for someone else, and there are these lights in the window of an unused room upstairs. Susan didn’t think she believed in ghosts, but she’s determined to figure out why she is seeing these past images of the castle’s inhabitants.

Why I picked it up: The title and the premise reminded me of A Christmas Carol.

Why I finished it: This was a short, but somewhat intriguing read. I wouldn’t say that it’s a story about Hanukkah, although the Jewish holiday does play a role in the story. Susan isn’t that in touch with her Jewish heritage since her mother has passed and her father doesn’t seem to be that invested in any tradition whatsoever. So when Susan is once again exposed to the tradition of lighting the menorah to remember the miracle of the oil, she not only finds herself becoming more immersed with the holiday but with her great-aunt as well. True to the gothic tradition, Penn uses the ghosts as a metaphor for the power of a miracle. The notion that Susan is trying to create a sense of peace for spirits more than fifty years old is a somewhat sentimental one, but as a plot device, it helps Susan grow into a more interesting character. She becomes much more sure of herself both as a person and in her ability to help others in need. The ending was somewhat romantic for my taste, but Penn doesn’t seem to pull any punches about what could or could have happened. It’s a quick read that can be enjoyed any time of the year, though I imagine it’s better enjoyed with a warm beverage curled up in a chair by the fire when the weather outside gets frightful.

Other related materials: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry; The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson; Penina Levine is a Potato Pancake by Rebecca O’Connell, illustrated by Majella Lue Sue; The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson, pictures by Garth Williams; The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum; The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett; A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic Review

desmond_pucket_1Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic by Mark Tatulli

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2013. 978-1449435486

Synopsis: Desmond loves monsters and special effects. Put the two together and you’ve got a recipe for success…or, as Desmond’s teachers see it, disaster. So when Desmond’s pranks get him in deep with the school, he’s got three chances to clean up his act or he’s going to be kicked off the school trip to Crab Shell Pier, home of the Mountain Full of Monsters ride. Desmond doesn’t want to hang up his title as ‘Gourmet of Gore’, but if it means he can still go on his favorite roller coaster, maybe he can keep it together long enough to get his teachers to believe he’s changed.

Why I picked it up: I liked Desmond Pucket and the Mountain Full of Monsters so much I wanted to go back and read the first book.

Why I finished it: Desmond is quirky, a little bit weird, and has a hobby that isn’t fully appreciated by the adults around him. It’s not his fault his skills aren’t praised at school. And even if his classmates aren’t thrilled at his antics, they are what make Desmond stand out from the crowd. It’s what readers like about the story: we relate to Desmond because we all have our own quirks and weirdness about us that isn’t always valued by our peers, but they are what make us unique and special. Plus, you have to give Desmond some major points for creativity. Not everyone could pull off a massive sleepover scare on their sister…even if he did get caught by his parents. I like that Tatulli blends the text with drawings and notes from Desmond’s notebook, not only because it draws the reader more into the story, but it gives us a better visual of the inner workings of his mind. The sketch-like style of the illustrations gives it a little bit of an edge, as though the pictures have been taken from an old horror movie reel. It gives our characters a sort of matter-of-fact air without being too cartoony or serious. It’s a great choice for a reluctant reader and keeps us laughing until the final pages.

Other related materials: Desmond Pucket and the Mountain Full of Monsters by Mark Tatulli; Lio’s Astonishing Tales: From the Haunted Crypt of Unknown Horrors by Mark Tatulli; The Odd Squad books by Michael Fry; Alien Invasion in my Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; George Brown, Class Clown by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Aaron Blecha; My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish books by Mo O’Hara, illustrated by Marek Jagucki; Frank Einstein books by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs; Diary of a Sixth-Grade Ninja books by Marcus Emerson; Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Timmy Failure books by Stephen Pastis

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Desmond Pucket and the Mountain Full of Monsters Review

desmond_pucket_2Desmond Pucket and the Mountain Full of Monsters by Mark Tatulli

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2014. 978-1449435493

Synopsis: This is it. This is the day. The day Desmond Pucket goes to Crab Shell Pier and rides the Mountain Full of Monsters ride…with the love of his life and dream girl Tina Schimsky. He supposed to spend the day with Mr. Needles, who is a total buzz kill when it comes to having fun. Good thing Desmond has a plan to ditch Mr. Needles so he can get to the ride with Tina. But there’s a sign; a sign that says the ride is going to be closed at the end of the summer. The greatest ride in the history of EVER is going to be closed…and now Desmond needs another plan to save it.

Why I picked it up: I had the opportunity to meet the author at a library conference this last summer and I was a huge fan of the pseudo graphic novel format.

Why I finished it: This book as a lot of appeal for a number of different readers. It’s got action. It’s got some adventures. It’s got some monsters and people getting scared – and let’s face it, that’s probably the coolest part. I mean, how would we feel if we knew our favorite ride was closing? What wouldn’t we do to raise some money to save it so that it can keep being enjoyed for years and years and years and years? Desmond is a clever hero that uses his skills creating scares and pulling pranks with his friends in order to stay ahead of the school disciplinarian and start a fundraising drive to (hopefully) keep Crab Shell Pier from closing Mountain Full of Monsters. His plans might not always work out the way he would like, but we keep cheering for him and his hilarious mishaps that happen along the way. I love that this is a chapter book with pictures because it helps with the transition from picture books to chapter books. It gives the reader a visual of all the hijinks and mayhem that Desmond and his friends get themselves into. Plus, it helps with reading comprehension; we understand the story a little better when we have some illustrations to go with it. Tatulli’s art style is unique in every way helping to add the humor and the ‘horror’ to Desmond’s story. The brief snippets of color help to attract our attention to certain portions of a scene and make us focus on little things that we might have missed if the book were merely text. It’s a laugh-out-loud story that has us plotting our own pranks and remembering our own youthful adventures.

Other related materials: Desmond Pucket Makes Monster Magic by Mark Tatulli; Lio’s Astonishing Tales: From the Haunted Crypt of Unknown Horrors by Mark Tatulli; The Odd Squad books by Michael Fry; My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish books by Mo O’Hara, illustrated by Marek Jagucki; Frank Einstein books by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs; Diary of a Sixth-Grade Ninja books by Marcus Emerson; Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Timmy Failure books by Stephen Pastis

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