Monster In the Middle | Middle Grade Spotlight

Though Halloween has passed, these three beastly titles keep the age-appropriate frights (and laughs) coming.

Though Halloween has passed, these three beastly titles keep the age-appropriate frights (and laughs) coming. The biggest, baddest bear of them all stages a technology takeover in Invasion of the Living Ted; zombie problems continue in the series sequel The Zombie Stone; and a monstrous pirate holds the keys to the quest in The Barf of the Bedazzler.

Campbell, K.G. The Zombie Stone. 224p. (Zombie Problems: Bk. 2). Knopf. Jan. 2021. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101931592.
Gr 4-7–After the adventures of the first book, August is still a lonely boy with an unfortunate habit of attracting zombies. His attempt to retrieve the zombie stone leads him to adventures in a thinly disguised fictional New Orleans. There he encounters many fantastical characters, and of course more zombies. Despite the zombie premise, this book is more goofy than macabre with wacky shenanigans and over-the-top characters to appeal to fans of stories that mix reality and fantasy like Trenton Lee Stewart’s “The Mysterious Benedict Society” or Tom Angleberger’s “Origami Yoda.” The main character is genuinely likable, but he shows less character growth than in the first volume. All of the main and most of the secondary characters appear to be white. The plot is fairly fast paced, with a few points where it drags. This may not be worth adding at smaller libraries if the first didn’t circulate, but would be a good choice for medium or large libraries. VERDICT For those readers who have already enjoyed the first installment, this is a solid sequel that mixes fun, horror elements, and incredible adventures.– Elizabeth Nicolai, Anchorage Public Library, AK

Hutchison, Barry. Invasion of the Living Ted. illus. by Lee Cosgrove. 208p. (Living Ted: Bk. 3). Delacorte. Jan. 2021. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9780593174326.
Gr 3-7–Just when you thought the world had been saved from a villainous force of evil teddy bears, and things were getting back to normal—here comes the most gigantic, mammoth, evil villain teddy bear of them all! Brother and sister Lisa Marie and Vernon embark on the most terrifying yet humorous adventure to end all adventures. Hutchison and illustrator Cosgrove take readers on the final ride of a battle between kids and evil teddy bears. Think there is no way a bear can come alive, become evil, and take over everything, including modern technology? Well, here’s a bear that can take over wireless tech! Will Lisa Marie and Vernon be able to end this charade of evil stuffing once and for all? Or will the bear have the last evil laugh? Fans of the first two installments will be excited to read the final book of this trilogy. Geared towards readers in upper elementary grades, this series will appeal to those who like a good scare, as well as a good laugh. VERDICT Purchase where the previous volumes are popular.–Megan ­Honeycutt, Univ. of West Georgia, Carrollton

Reynolds, Aaron. The Barf of the Bedazzler. illus. by Cam Kendell. 304p. (Fart Quest: Bk. 2). Roaring Brook. Feb. 2021. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781250206381.
Gr 3-6–Fart (a mage-in-training) and his companions Pan (an elf) and Moxie (a dwarf) are once again commissioned by the Great and Powerful Kevin to find the elusive substance known as Bedazzler barf. Their task is rendered nearly impossible because there is only one person who knows the whereabouts of a Bedazzler: the wicked Pirate Diremaw, who kills anyone who ever sees his face. As the crew moves nonstop from adventure to adventure, they learn the value of teamwork, of not judging people on face value, and of getting past difficult personal experiences to benefit the quest. Despite the crass series title, this is an entertaining action/fantasy adventure with fighting, magic, and even hillbilly elves. Fart learns that he is enough, whatever his mage status, and a note from Pan at the end guarantees a sequel dealing with the possibly nefarious motives of the Great and Powerful Kevin. In all, here’s a series that will appeal to the kids who love underwear, farting, and juvenile humor. The spot-on game-card illustrations will attract a separate set of fans, and those who like magical quests in easy doses will also find much to enjoy. VERDICT An entertaining, action-packed fantasy series that will appeal to readers of Max Brallier’s “Last Kids on Earth” books.– Elizabeth Friend, Wester M.S., TX

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