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Fangbone: Third-Grade Barbarian: Michael Rex

Book: Fangbone: Third-Grade Barbarian
Author: Michael Rex
Pages: 128
Age Range: 7-10

9780399255212HFangbone: Third-Grade Barbarian launches an entertaining new graphic novel series for early elementary school kids. The premise is that Fangbone, a young boy from a primitive planet (where they happen to speak English), is sent via a wormhole of sorts to our world. Fangbone is tasked with laying low while protecting the all-important Big Toe of Drool. Told to blend in and not attract attention, Fangbone ends up in room 3G, a classroom full of misfits. But his enemies are not far behind...

Fangbone is pure, boy-friendly fun. Fangbone marvels at the wonders of indoor plumbing. He starts a trend of wearing fur underwear to school. Although not viewed as much of a warrior on his own planet, he turns out to be pretty fantastic at "beanball". The enemies that he fights include dirt devils, hound-snakes, squirrels, and atomic hot wings. He also struggles to balance his mission against the needs of his new friends.

Fangbone's frazzled teacher and hapless principal lend humor for older readers, too. Like when the teacher, confronted with the other kids copying Fangbone, mutters: "Where do you even get fur underwear?". Or when Principal Bruce, popping in to see the students dressed in odd clothes, responds with "Fantastic! Learning about other cultures through their clothing." Everyone wonders if Skullbania is in New Jersey.

Michael Rex's illustrations are in shades of mustard yellow and gray. The big toe of drool is suitably repulsive, and the battle scenes are filled with action and acrobatics. There are plenty of interesting monsters, mixed in with depictions of relatively ordinary kids. Fangbone: Third-Grade Barbarian is fast-paced and filled with classic action imagery (sound effects, etc.).

Fangbone's moral debates and logistical problems are perhaps a tad easily resolved, and the "teamwork" message perhaps a tiny bit overdone (especially at the end). But I don't think that the target audience of seven-year-old boys will mind. Fangbone after all features a third-grader who fights real monsters, set against the inherent humor of someone from a primitive society ending up in a suburban elementary school. There's a lot to like about Fangbone: Third-Grade Barbarian. If the author can tone down the friendship lessons a little bit more, I think this new series will be a success.

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (@PutnamBooks)
Publication Date: January 5, 2012
Source of Book: Advance review copy from Ronin Publishing Services

© 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).