Book: Professor Gargoyle (Lovecraft Middle School, Book 1)
Author: Charles Gilman
Age Range: 9-12
Professor Gargoyle is the first book in the new Lovecraft Middle School horror series from Quirk Books. Although set in a middle school, it's actual a quick middle grade read, one that I think will appeal to dormant / reluctant readers.
Robert is the only one of his friends to be assigned to the brand new Lovecraft Middle School. He thinks that his biggest problems will be finding someone to sit with at lunch, and staying out of bully Glenn's way. However, he soon discovers a stairway to a mysterious old attic (one that makes no sense at all as part of Lovecraft Middle School), an intelligent two-headed rat, and a teacher who isn't what he appears. And then things really get weird.
Professor Gargoyle has an eye-catching cover, one of those ones that changes depending on what angle you hold the book at. You see the professor as a regular older teacher, or as a demon. It's pretty cool. (Ms. Yingling called it the best part of the book). I do think it may make younger kids pick up the book (though it may also make adult readers NOT pick up the book). There are also a few interior black and white illustrations, keeping the book reader-friendly for young readers.
The plotting in Professor Gargoyle is fast-paced and action-filled, with opportunities for kids to show bravery and cleverness. I thought that the resolution of Robert's relationship with Glenn happened a bit quickly, but relationship dynamics are hardly the point of the book.
Here are a couple of examples of Gilman's prose:
"Up until this moment, Robert's life had been fairly quiet and ordinary. He had the same interests and hobbies as a million other twelve-year-old boys. He spent his days in school; he spent his nights doing homework and messing around on the computer. He'd never experienced anything that might have prepared him for a swarm of wild rats." (Page 19)
"Robert approached a round wooden table in the center of the room. On its surface was an open book, facedown. Robert shuddered. The book's spine appeared to be an actual spine--the bright white vertebrae of what might be a snake or lizard." (Page 43)
I like how the author says relatively deadpan, even when introducing fantastical elements. He does, however, occasionally tell instead of showing ("... everyone in the class listened without protest. They understood that Mr. Loomis was simply frustrated, that he was trying to prevent a terrible thing from happening again."). Still, I think that the storyline will appeal to fans of horror stories.
The next book in the series, The Slither Sisters, is due out in January. While this series isn't going to be for everyone, I do think that librarians will want to add it to their arsenal.
© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).