Benji Zeb Is a Ravenous Werewolf

Tundra. Jul. 2024. 304p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781774880524.
Gr 5 Up–In Moulton’s latest, Jewish traditions and werewolf mythology blend seamlessly to create a compelling coming-of-age tale. Benji Zeb is overwhelmed. Faced with the strain of navigating his Modern Orthodox Jewish upbringing on a rural Washington kibbutz/wolf sanctuary and escalating threats from an antisemitic neighbor, Benji has barely had time to prepare for his upcoming bar mitzvah. Thankfully, the kibbutz’s true purpose remains secret: a safe space for its residents, who are all werewolves. School presents its own set of problems for Benji. He’s terrified of losing control and accidentally transforming in front of everyone. To make matters worse, his former friend (and secret crush) Caleb Gao has turned into an arrogant bully. When Caleb unexpectedly arrives at the sanctuary as a fellow werewolf, distraught and terrified of returning home, he desperately needs Benji’s help. Though he's initially wary of Caleb, the two forge a sweet bond as they work to confront the threats to their town. The title may mislead readers into expecting chills and gore, but what the book lacks in horror it makes up for with nuanced characters and a thought-provoking take on antisemitism, bigotry, and the power of acceptance. Benji and his parents are cued as white, Caleb is of Chinese descent, and there is a diverse cast of kibbutz residents offering a contemporary, multifaceted exploration of marginalized perspectives.
VERDICT Highly recommended for readers looking for a unique take on the werewolf trope. Readers will root for the gentle and introspective protagonist.

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