Friday, August 24, 2012

Guy Friday-- Alex Van Helsing

The Triumph of Death (Alex Van Helsing, #3)Henderson, Jason. Alex Van Helsing: The Triumph of Death
24 July 2012, Harper Collins
Reviewed at Young Adult Books Central

Still reeling from finding out that his mother is a witch, Alex is on his way back to school from studying different creatures in Italy when the plane he is on is attacked by zombie vampires! Luckily, he keeps his wits about him and survives his plummet to earth with a parachute, but the training computer is stolen. No time to worry about that-- the town of Secheron is dark at noon, and the skeleton painted vampires are awaiting the arrival of Claire, the vampire queen. Sangster is on hand to help Alex, and the arrival of Astrid, a new student from the Netherlands at the school helps. She is a witch and representative of Hexen, and her spell manages to shut Claire down. Research finds that the vampires are recreating a Bruegel painting called The Triumph of Death, and Claire has sent Alex a message that he has about a week before this comes to pass. Astrid and Alex travel to see the painting and uncover more mysteries, which lead them to Harrow, England to try to find the body of Claire and Lord Byron's daughter. When the coffin turns up empty, they end up on an island off of Scotland, where they find out lots of things about Alex's past, solve the mystery of Byron's daughter, fend off Claire, and leave the door open for (hooray!) yet another adventure!
Strengths: John Wilson said it best: things have to blow up in the first chapter, and Mr. Henderson never forgets this. So many strengths in his writing-- good action, lots of travel to exotic places, a tiny bit of romance, good friends, supportive but not intrusive adults, and in this case, a fairly thought provoking mystery. Excellent stuff. This series is a must have for my middle schoolers who love the Cirque du Freak series.
Weaknesses: While I love all of the literary references, this is the one part of the book that my readers have trouble with. High schoolers probably have fewer problems with it.

Moskovitz, Hannah. Zombie Tag.
20 December 2011. Roaring Brook Press

There's nothing Wil likes more than a rousing game of Zombie Tag with his friends. They run around with spatulas, pretending to bite each other and to hunger after brains. Everyone's parents are uncomfortable with this, given the Unfortunate Incident with zombies thirty odd years ago, but Wil's parents are expecially concerned because the entire family is still reeling from the death of Wil's older brother, Graham, from an asthma attack. When Wil finds out that one of his friend's fathers has a bell that will bring back all the dead within a five mile radius, he steals it, rings it, and brings back 70 people, including Graham. Graham doesn't want to chase people and eat their brains, but there's not much else he is interested in doing, either. Wil wants the old Graham back, but zombie Graham is too detached and morose. Most of the other zombies feel the same way and are trying to find a way to return to being dead. Wil uncovers a lot of startling information about zombies, but is never able to find anything to restore Wil to the way he was.
Strengths: The first chapter, with the zombie tag game, gave me great hope. The cover is good as well.
Weaknesses: Most boys who want to read about zombies don't really want to read about a boy pining for his brother and dealing with a clinically depressed zombie. They want blood and guts and body parts dropping off, which this lacks. (Think Kloepfer's Zombie Chasers.) This one is the sort of zombie book that could be considered for a Newbery Award.


  1. I'm not big on zombies, I must admit--but Jason Henderson's book sounds like it might tempt me.

    Hope the trip to Kent State went well. "Is this the little girl I carried... etc."

  2. I love the Alex Van Helsing books. The twist of being in Austria etc makes them fun.

  3. "This one is the sort of zombie book that could be considered for a Newbery Award." Love the thought.