17 March 2011, Dial
When Danny and his friend Wendell find a bat at the local swimming pool, Danny's mom is not able to help it, so suggests that the two go on the bus (which is somehow magical) to Mexico to consult with Danny's Uncle Steve, who is a scientist studying bats in the area. When they arrive, they are irritated by the amount of bugs, but also by the fact that miners are blasting in caves where bats make their homes. They aren't the only ones who are irritated-- a huge bat comes and kidnaps Danny! Wendell and Steve take off after him, but the jungle is a hard place. Danny is fairly safe-- the giant bat, Camazotz, seems to think he is her baby. He escapes at one point but has trouble surviving in the jungle. Eventually, Wendell and Steve find him, and after some harrowing exploits involving Camazotz's mate, manage to escape and get back home.
Strengths: These graphic novels are so much fun. I loved the footnotes explaining Danny's exploits. And how's this for a description: "It was like old cheese soaked in cat urine wrapped in gym socks dipped in boiled cabbage." (page 82) I am glad I didn't have to go into THAT cave.
Weaknesses: Hard to tell if middle school students are going to go for these. I had the first one for a while, and it sat untouched, but when I got most of the rest of the series, they started flying off the shelves. I like them, but have reservations about having a book about were-wieners in the middle school!
10 January 2012, Dial
Danny is off to camp, and unfortunately his annoying cousin Spencer (who likes to relate entire plots of television shows and give running commentary when Danny is playing video games) is coming to Camp Jackalope as well. Things start off okay (Spencer isn't in Danny's cabin), but when Spencer goes missing, Danny worries. With his new friend Christiana (an ardent left wing feminist!), they go looking for him and find out that he has found an actual jackalope! Unfortunately, counselors Lenny and Earl want to sell powdered jackalope horn and so are trapping as many as they can find. Danny uses his ninja skills to track them, finds the jackalope prison, and manages to free them. Lenny decides he won't "gank" the campers for finding him out, because it always ends messily, but he is arrested for embezzling money from the camp anyway. Book 7 in this series is When Fairies Go Bad, and I think I'll have to buy it for the library!
Strengths: Again, clever for children and for adults. Quick to read, graphically pleasing. Would have to buy this, if only for the phrase "crapmonkeys!" which I intend to use often this summer, and the idea of a s'more that is made with "carob and gluten-free graham crackers". You just KNOW that some health conscious mother somewhere has actually tried that.
Weaknesses: Not sure of the appeal of the jackalope, but if more books come out, I may be able to do a themed shelf of them! (Emily Ecton's Project Jackalope being the other title I've seen recently.)