Sunday, August 20, 2023

The Notebooks of Doom (1-3)

Rise of the Balloon Goons
Day of the Night Crawlers
Attack of the Shadow Smashers
by Troy Cummings
Recommended Ages: 8+

When we first meet Alexander Bopp, he is scared to death – of starting over at a new school, after he and his dad move to the quirky town of Stermont. Unforgettably described as a "mop-haired, bug-eyed, gut-filled bag of bones," Alexander (Salamander to friends) will soon need all those guts, because Stermont is afflicted with monsters. And thanks to a notebook that he finds by chance, Al has the knowledge to fight back. He soon recruits a sometime bully named Rip and a functionally invisible girl named Nikki to re-form the defunct S.S.M.P. (Super Secret Monster Patrol), saving Stermont from rampaging air dancers (a.k.a. balloon goons), dirt-dwelling tunnel fish and renegade shadows that want to bring the town under eternal darkness.

Thrills and giggles ensue. Alexander and friends experience bizarre situations just enough to the silly side of spooky to ensure that little readers, or maybe pre-literate kiddoes interested in following along as you read to them, will only cover their eyes to wipe away tears of laughter. It's goofy, creepy fun with a few gentle lessons about making new friends and being loyal to them, having the courage to help out even in a scary situation, reocgnizing that people aren't necessarily bad just because they're different, and (of course) realizing that kids are smarter and braver than adults, which is terribly important. Isn't it?

The illustrations are whimsical but expressive. Select pages from the Notebook of Doom leave you salivating for more. And each book takes only a few minutes to read, making it quite possible that even a short attention span might stretch to devour these books in only a few reading sessions. To say nothing of such succeeding titles as Chomp of the Meat-Eating Vegetables, Pop of the Bumpy Mummy and Sneeze of the Octo-Schnozz.

Troy Cummings is the picture-book author of Otto the Ornament, The Eensy Weensy Spider Freeks Out, Giddy-up, Daddy!, Can I Be Your Dog? and Arfy and the Stinky Smell. These three books, which I read in a not-very-thick omnibus edition, are but the start of the 13-book "Notebook of Doom" series of very short, illustrated chapter books featuring Alexander Bopp and his friends, Rip and Nikki. These, in turn, are followed by (currently) four "Binder of Doom" books. For a full list of their titles, click here.

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