Welcome to this (rather crowded) Friday post. First up, a reminder to all those intrepid writers of mini-narrative, Fiction in 50 kicks off on Monday for this month, and the prompt for October is….
You fill in the blank! To play along, just create a piece of fiction in 50 words or less and then come back on Monday and add your effort to the linky or leave a link in the comments. For more detailed instructions and for future prompts, click here. New players are always welcome!
Now onto business. Today the Maniacal Book Club is going to attempt a double dip review. Please bear with us as this has never happened before and it could go horribly (and amusingly) wrong. To add to the potential chaos, we have also chosen two books featuring the living impaired that would be perfect for middle graders (particularly boys) with an interest in combating undeath in all its stinky forms. Let us begin with Mr Katz is a Zombie by M.C. Lesh.
Twelve year old J.D. has a fairly interesting life – his parents are ghost hunters (as well as being perfectly ordinary people) and J.D. himself can see and communicate with ghosts. When J.D. acquires an old book of spells during one of his parents’ ghostbusting jobs, he suspects it might lead to trouble. This suspicion turns out to be correct when his friend Rodney accidentally reads a spell out loud and turns their teacher into a shuffling, stinky zombie. Never one to turn a blind eye to injustice, J.D., Rodney and Rodney’s twin younger brothers take on the task of figuring out how to turn Mr Katz back into his non-stinky self before brains are splattered all over North Goethalsburg. Cue action! Cue adventure! Cue extra-large sacks of jam-filled doughnuts!
Dip into it for…
…a fun romp that features a remarkably sensible and compassionate protagonist, some well-meaning and inventive zombie-herding techniques and a general reminder to always read the fine print.
Don’t dip if…
…you’re not a fan of zombies. Or fine print. Otherwise you’ll find this to be a light, entertaining read.
Overall Dip Factor:
Guru Dave says: The message of this tome is clear: Mess not with that which is beyond your understanding! Although if you must delve into the magical arts in a crowded public place, at least direct your spells toward someone who is NOT responsible for providing an in-depth report to your parents on your behaviour.
Toothless says: No dragons in this book. But there is one zombie and one ghost so that nearly makes up for it. This was a fun book. I would have liked to be running around with J.D. and Rodney and the twins, chasing after Mr Katz. It would have been fun with more brain splatting too. Oh well. The stinky bits were funny.
Mad Martha says: While chasing zombies, four young boys learned magic spell books are not toys.
Bruce says: I ended up really enjoying this one for its snappy dialogue and the amusing narrative that J.D. keeps up throughout the story. The second half seemed to move a lot more quickly than the first and the twist in the tail of the plot was unexpected, convenient and really quite funny. I’d recommend this particularly for young male readers (although girls will like it too) and as this is the first of a series, I’ll be keeping an eye out for J.D’s next adventure.
Four thumbs up!
Now on to the intriguingly named Ben Fox: Squirrel Zombie Specialist At Your Service by Daisy Whitney.
Ben is really more of a dog person. It’s not that he dislikes cats, but he just isn’t particularly enamoured of his own family cat, Percy – a haughty siamese that showers affection on Ben’s little sister Macy. When the Fox family gets a new doggy door installed for their dog Captain Sparkles, things begin to get weird. On investigating a strange noise in the night, Ben comes across a creepy, blank-eyed squirrel staring in through the doggy door…and as Ben continues to investigate, he discovers that a whole army of squirrels that have clearly succumbed to untimely death due to squishing by car, has been raised in his backyard and appears to be doing the bidding of Percy the cat. With Percy’s intentions for his undead squirrel army unclear (yet obviously nefarious), Ben must rely on the one person he never thought he’d need if Percy’s evil plans are to be thwarted before the Animal Zombie Apocalypse begins right in his own backyard.
Dip into it for…
…a surprisingly original and engaging novel with a strong protagonist and a plot that doesn’t waste words. And for the zombie squirrels. Obviously.
Don’t dip if…
…the thought of villainous zombie woodland creatures (or doggy doors) offends you.
Overall Dip Factor:
Guru Dave says: Once again, a book that appears flippant on the surface, carries an important lesson for young minds. Sometimes we are so preoccupied fighting the Animal Zombie Apocalypse in our backyard, that we forget to notice the conflict arising in our own living rooms. Those who wish to take up the mantle of zombie hunter would do well to dwell on the wisdom contained in this tome.
Toothless says: No dragons. Again. But zombie squirrels are super-awesome. I haven’t seen zombie squirrels before. And this book also tells all about other zombie animals like zombie raccoons, zombie dogs, and my favourite, zombie ducks. I’d love it if Ben Fox could fight off the Zombie Duckpocalypse next! Quaaaaaaaaaaack!
Mad Martha says: When fighting zombie woodland creatures, focus on their beastly features. To defeat these undead rodents, requires planning that is cogent.
Bruce says: You could be forgiven for thinking, as I did when I requested this book, that a middle grade book about the Squirrelpocalypse set in motion by an evil feline overlord could well end up being a complete load of rubbish. Thankfully, I can assure you that this particular book about the Squirrelpocalypse and its evil feline overlord is an undiscovered gem! I really, truly enjoyed this book from beginning to end, and finished it off in two short sittings.
The great strength of the tale is the totally believable main character, Ben, who really is an “everyboy” who happens to have Cerebral Palsy. While this condition does factor in to some parts of the story, it’s not a big deal and it’s not emphasised – just as in real life, it just is. I applaud Whitney on creating a character who has a disability, but whose disability is not in any way the focus of the story.
This book is fun, it’s got a solid plot underpinning the slightly ridiculous squirrely invasion, and there’s enough action and humour to keep you turning pages at a rate of knots. It will appeal to both boys and girls, particularly if they have a pet cat or dog (or both) and can imagine at least one of these plotting to take over the world. This could easily provide some very entertaining pre-bedtime read-aloud experiences, or it would be a great choice for confident middle graders looking for a fresh twist on the zombie/monster theme.
Five thumbs up! (Bruce added a second thumb)
So there you are – two zombie treats for the middle graders (and older MG fiction junkies) who would benefit from undeath mixed with action and humour.
Until next time,
Bruce (and the Book Club)
* I received both titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley*