Bites

Published: September 25, 2017
Publisher: Rabbit Publisher
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

In this origin story, Harry Moon is up to his eyeballs in magic. In the small town of Sleepy Hollow where every day is Halloween night, his archenemy, Titus Kligore, has eyes on winning the annual Scary Talent Show. Harry’s sister, Honey Moon, says Harry needs better tricks so he finds a new and better magic wand. Still, Harry has a tough job ahead of him if he is going to steal the crown. He takes a chance on a magical rabbit who introduces him to the deep magic. Harry decides the best way forward is to “do no evil ” while the battle to defeat Titus goes epic. (goodreads.com)

Whoa, buddy, are there some serious issues with this book. Like deeply troubling issues.

So to start, I’m not sure who the target audience is. On Goodreads it’s listed under children’s but Harry’s in 8th grade and is 13 years old. I would probably peg this as being for someone in the 7/8/9 age range and while it’s not uncommon for kids to read up the age of the protag and style of writing don’t seem to fit.

Combatting bullying is the main theme of this book. Harry’s the one on the receiving end of said bullying. The thing is, the bullying in this book is a bit outdated. That’s not to say bullying isn’t still a physical problem, but it’s definitely moved more into the realm of the psychological and insidious, taking place online and outside of school where the bullied can’t escape. HARRY MOON doesn’t even touch on that. The bullying Harry received is taunting and then Titus, the bully, holds him down and shears his head with a pair of sheep shears.

So that’s assault and the police would be involved if that were to happen. That’s not something that you treat with kindness and you have a touchy-feely conversation with your kid over a sundae about. That’s press charges territory. And electronics are a thing in this world. The kids have cell phones and laptops and everything but cyber bullying doesn’t exist, apparently.

That was my first thought when I read that scene but I’m like okay. This book is obviously not going there. It has a message to tell and it’s going to tell it. Fine. So I kept reading and it was going along okay. I was really afraid there was going to be some godly moralizing going on based on the marketing material I had for it, but that’s actually kept to a minimum. I just thought it’s kind of weird that magic and religion to that extent are co-existing in the same book. As an outsider they seem very antithetical to me. But whatever.

And then we get to Sarah, Harry’s former babysitter and assistant for his magic act. Initially I didn’t think anything about their relationship. They’re only three years apart and I imagine she just stopped babysitting for him and she’s just kind of humoring him in a big sister sort of way with being his assistant and being encouraging. Of course Harry’s crushing on her hardcore but for most of the time she’s very adamant that they’ll always have that age difference and nothing will come of his crush.

Until she kisses him. On the lips. To which I went

Why? Because she’s 16 and drives and is in high school and Harry’s 13. Of course he’s over the moon about this and she actually shows some intent there and I’m just like:

Because I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in most states. This should not be in a children’s book as being okay. At all. Because it’s pedophilia. Thing is you can age them up and it would be less of an issue (if they’re in their 20s). But he’s THIRTEEN. She’s SIXTEEN. This is what Lifetime movies are made of. No. This is not sweet and awww and how cute. This is fucking gross.

And then you have the effectively morally superior Harry talking about do no evil and only using his magic for good. And there’s this paragraph at the end where some of his friends got in trouble and he’s looking at one friend in particular standing with his very angry dad and he thinks about all the welts that the kid comes to school with and how he lies about them to cover them up. And Harry just kind of turns his back on it and thinks about how thankful he is that his parents don’t beat him and basically sucks for his friend but THAT’S not the kind of evil Harry’s going to be fighting.

This book does not fit in the current market. At all. Its message is antiquated at best, downright ignorant at worst. There are elements added effectively to add detail that just end up raising eyebrows. I mean yeah, show some “diversity” in characters in how not everyone has a great home life but dropping little tidbits about how one of Harry’s friends gets the shit beaten out of him by his dad and have Harry, who’s on a crusade against evil, just ignore that, is not the way to go about adding detail to flesh out characters.

And then the “love interest.”

No. That’s horrifying. People go to jail for shit like that.

Update your thinking, guy. This book is indicative of the author not understanding what kids these days are going through or how to address them. This is not a well-represented book on bullying for multiple reasons. It’s so out of touch and so whimsical with a serious issue while outright ignoring other very heinous problems that I just can’t take it seriously as any kind of lesson book. It teaches nothing that a kid can use that would be pertinent to their lives.

Missed the mark on this one. Big time.

1

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

December 2, 2017

Published: October 1, 2011
Publisher: Darby Creek Publishing
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

I thought the bus was filling with smoke. But then the smoke took the shapes of shadowy, faceless people. …

Lamar takes the late bus home from school after practice each day. After the bus’s beloved driver passes away, Lamar begins to see strange things – demonic figures, preparing to attack the bus. Soon he learns the demons are after Mr. Rumble, the freaky new bus driver. Can Lamar rescue his fellow passengers, or will Rumble’s past come back to destroy them all? (goodreads.com)

This was a great freaky little read for reluctant readers. I’ve enjoyed all of the books I’ve read in the Night Fall series and THE LATE BUS was no exception.

Jasper mixes terrifying elements of the supernatural with the psychological for a blended story that really plays with the mind. Considering the way things disappear, how not everyone can see these things, and the voices Lamar hears, it really toes the line of what’s real and what isn’t. And Jasper does it in a way that doesn’t invoke the cheese card (a la RL Stine). The characters are realistic and relatable, truly scary things happen to them, and things are resolved in a way that doesn’t require huge blow-outs and contrived situations. It all really works.

And even for a story that’s written for reluctant readers I don’t feel like I’m being talked down to. The writing is simple and to the point but it has a job to do and it does it. It tells the story. It gives me characters struggling through these scenarios. It gives me creepy, scary elements. But it doesn’t moralize me or condescend to me at all. I think the people at Lerner/Darby Creek really nailed the line for that.

Two thumbs up for THE LATE BUS! A great little chiller to read right around Halloween.

4.5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Published: February 22, 2017
Publisher: Space Goat Productions
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

When Johnny hears a rumor that Sarge’s body is hidden somewhere in the forest outside the campground, he recruits Violet and some of the other campers to go on a mission to find out if it’s true. (goodreads.com)

So I loved the art in this comic. Like a lot. It’s truly beautiful, all the colors and shading. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it.

The story on the other hand . . eh. It’s weird. Why are all these zombies at this military-like camp? Are they training for the zombie army? And why is Sarge just a head on a stick? Not a whole hell of a lot he can do. Is the guy who pushes him around on a cart supposed to be his arms to whip these zombie kids into shape?

And then they’re searching for his body, like it has some kind of mind of its own. I don’t know. I don’t feel real rooted in this world. Granted I think the comic is for younger kids, like middle school at most, so I think a lot of backstory gets skipped. But I end up with a lot more questions than what’s answered, mainly because it gives zero exposition. Not even really trickled throughout unless you want to count the ghost story of Sarge’s body. But even then everything’s existing within a bubble.

Young kids would probably like it. It’s amusing enough and the visual are fantastic. But it’s lacking in its story, for sure.

2.5

I received a copy of this comic from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Published: October 24, 2016
Publisher: Glass Apple Press
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

The town of Saltlick Bluff is famous for an urban legend. Does the spirit of a young girl wait on a misty cliff-hugging highway for her ride to the prom?

In the house on Beech Street a terrible tragedy occurred. Now neighbors won’t look at the place as they pass. Those who live nearby draw their blinds and shutter their windows after dark. What are they afraid of?

Hale Hallow Woods seems sinister and menacing even in the light of day. Does a thirst for revenge beat near its dark heart?

The answers lie within these pages, just waiting to send a chill up your spine! (goodreads.com)

I’m always up for scary stories and SPINE CHILLERS sounded interesting enough. And with my digital copy coming in at just 71 pages it was going to be a super short read regardless.

Overall this is definitely a middle grade read. My fifth and sixth grade self would have loved this book and probably would have kept it with my collection of scary story books in my desk at school.

In the vein of GOOSEBUMPS but less cheesy, SPINE CHILLERS is to the point and each story had its own level of creep. One of my favorites was  ‘Seaworthy’ where a too-proud boy gets his just desserts after bargaining for more than he could afford. ‘The Healer’ was another good one where a little girl has the healing touch and the jerk of a dad decides to capitalize on it. Except that might not work out too well for him. My most favorite was probably ‘Prom Date.’ A girl who feels she’s been wronged tries to get revenge only to wake something up from the dead. All three of these stories have the running theme of someone getting their comeuppance and those are sort of my favorite. There’s a sense of satisfaction at the end of them all.

The stories are simply written, but the punch is packed at the end where they all turn themselves on their heads. A younger reader will definitely be up at night reading these under the sheets with a flashlight, and probably won’t be able to get to sleep after that. The world needs more horror-addicted youth and SPINE CHILLERS will help convert those youths.

4

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

December 27, 2016

17062Published: September 2003
Publisher: Scholastic
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous.

But there’s another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and courage if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life. (goodreads.com)

How so thoroughly Neil Gaiman. If I had no idea this was his book I probably still would have been able to tell who the author was. He just has this lyrical way of storytelling that keeps things simple yet eloquent and dark but endearingly optimistic that is just so obviously him.

CORALINE is one hell of a dark book for a children’s book, and this coming from someone who grew up on SCARY STORIES. There’s just something about a fake mother kidnapping Coraline, holding her hostage, and threatening to sew button eyes on her that’s all rather terrifying. But the story’s told in a way that never gets away from Coraline. She’s never one to panic and she’s always firmly in control, even when she thinks she’s not. That juxtaposition keeps the story grounded and hopeful while at the same time being grotesque and off-putting. The storage sack of performers reminded me far too closely of Killer Clowns from Outer Space for my liking. Blech.

I shouldn’t say I was surprised by the depth in the story. It’s Neil Gaiman. There’s always so much more here than just a story. But I’d never seen the movie and the book wasn’t on my radar growing up. Really, I’m a new convert to all things Gaiman just within the last few years so take that for what you will. But I kind of loved CORALINE a little bit. She’s such a smart, astute, sharp little girl that doesn’t let anything by her, even among fantastical surroundings. Neither does she blink. She’s incredibly unflappable and she’s an incredible role model just for that. I mean any adult would run screaming by the dad thing in the basement. She was just like “Meh. I’ll figure this out.” And she did.

I’m so glad I [eventually] discovered Gaiman. I’ve yet to read a story of his that hasn’t left some kind of mark on me. That hasn’t stayed with me and left me in awe of his writing. CORALINE is no different. Screw children’s book. CORALINE is a BOOK and would be enjoyed by anyone. And would probably disturb everyone just a little.

5