Monday, September 25, 2023

MMGM- Zombie Season and Arazen's Wolves

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Weinberger, Justin. Zombie Season
September 5, 2023 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

It's the end of the world, but a kid still has to do homework, right? In California, there is always some problem, and summer means an increase in the number of zombie attacks. Oliver tries to be prepared, and pays attention to the drills that his gym teacher organizes to ready the students for zombie attacks. He has maps of town, the best escape routes, and a go-bag by the door of his house. Joule has a different feeling about the Dusk-- her father has been missing for a year and is most likely a zombie. If she leaves their farm, as her mother would like to do, how will she ever be able to find her father and help him? Regina's mother is a scientist with HumaniTeam who is trying her best to deal with this new challenge; at one point, she even came up with Project Coloma to harness the power of zombies walking and convert it to electricity, although this goes badly wrong. Two things that keeps the zombies going are trash (you can throw it in front of them and buy yourself some time while they eat it) and their superheated blood. Stopping them requires water guns filled with super cooled water that disables them and then makes them evaporate. When this technique doesn't seem to work as well, and Regina thinks that there is a zombie boy trying to communicate with her, everything the kids know about zombies gets called into question. Is Regina's mother's company working for good, or are their some evil plans afoot? When the entire area experiences a tremendous surge of zombies seemingly immune to previous ways to vanquish them, will anyone survive? 

Disclaimer: As an old person, I find it increasingly hard to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy zombie and vampire books. In the first place, if this were a real concern, wouldn't everyone in the world be either a zombie or a vampire? Additionally, in case of any sort of apocalypse, I am heading out the front door and throwing myself at the first zombie I see. It's not going to be worth surviving. This worldview made it harder to properly enjoy this book. 

Strengths: I can appreciate some well developed zombie lore, and like Bayron's The Vanquishers, this has a lot of good details about what zombies are like, how to fight them, how society is adapting to their presence, and even a scientific corporation trying to do research into how to utilize them. On top of that, there is a lot of fighting and running around, which is important. There's even a bit of dark humor, with Oliver recognizing that while it seems silly to do homework when the world is ending, sometimes you have to do the things that you CAN control. The characters are all well developed and have different reactions to what is going on. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep readers guessing. This is a little more serious than Kloepfer's Zombie Chasers (2011) but not as serious as Higson's (2010) The Enemy. 
Weaknesses: I wasn't all that clear on how the zombie plague started, but I might have just missed in. Anyway, students usually don't want that much background; they just want BRAINS.
What I really think: I guess we haven't had many new zombie books in a while (not counting the Minecraft books here!), so this is a solid title to purchase for all middle school collections, where there will ALWAYS be students interested in zombie fighting. I am DEFINITELY purchasing this. For me, personally, once the zombies broke into the house at the beginning of the book, I knew that everyone should be dead, and it made it hard to focus. Remember, I am old and jaded. When I think about vampires living forever, all I can get my mind around is "That is an eternity of folding socks"!

There's also apparently a 39 Clues style web site game, and I'm not even going to investigate that. I have absolutely no patience for any sort of video gaming, and think that young people should spend no more than half an hour a day on screens. Sigh. 

Flanagan, John. Arazan's Wolves (Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger, #6)
September 5, 2023 by Viking Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

When a farmer in Celtica is killed by a dire wolf, Will heaves a deep sigh, stows 30 pounds of coffee in his pack, and heads off with Maddie to investigate. Of course, they have to deal with robbers on the highway, but the two have a well established procedure for this, and the robbers are soon standing at the side of the road without pants or shoes. The dire wolves seem to be attached to the sorceress Arazen, and while Will doesn't quite believe in magic, he knows that they are creatures of the dark. Arazen isn't playing, like Malkallam in Sorcerer of the North; Arazen has subjugated a band of Wargals, and is trying to summon a demon. This is all too connected to Morgarath, who has proven to be a real threat in the past. Soon, the two are seeking help from Eveningstar and plotting their plan to stop Arazen from summoning the demon Krakotomal. Will their Ranger skills stand up to the supernatural?
Strengths: It's great to see Rangers back in action, taking care of threats to the people, and I especially love that Maddie and Will have a father-daughter type relationship. The dire wolves and Wargals are just scary enough, and the medieval feel to these books is perfect for young readers who love classic Anglo-Germanic fantasy stories. Parents who love Tolkien would do well to start their third graders on these books rather than The Hobbit
Weaknesses: I love these because they are predictable but... they are fairly predictable. Lots of coffee drinking by the campfire, the occasional robber, forces of evil that need to be dispatched with their fantastic ranger skills. Have to say that Will and Maddie seemed a little nonchalant about the demon. I'm not going to take any demons lightly and think I can richochet an arrow to knock over a bottle of water to erase the chalk pentagram. I'd be making a pretty big chalk circle around myself before doing that, but it was exciting to read about. 
What I really think: I still have a lot of readers who enjoy these books, but I no longer buy four of each new title. I'm really conflicted about this series because I love reading each book as it comes out, but find it hard to keep students interested in a series with over five books. I'd love to see Maddie break out on her own, or see Will meet his match. I was sort of hoping there would be a romance with Eveningstar.


  1. For those who love these kinds of adventures in the wild, both sound good. Kids at the used bookstore where I work ask if we have received any of the Rangers Apprentice books. Thanks for your reviews, Karen!

  2. I'm surprised the Rangers Apprentice series is still going but then I'm out of the loop with that one. As much as I enjoy certain series, sometimes I wish they would have an end date.

  3. Not my cup of tea, but I always am interested in hearing what you find the kids in your school liking and reading. Thanks for the post.

  4. Rangers Apprentice was one of the series where my kid read so many more than me. So I'm very fond of the idea.

  5. I like the sounds of Zombie Season so I might check it out (still have a soft spot for zombie stories :) ) . Thanks for the reviews!