Friday, December 6, 2013

Creature Department by Robert Paul Weston

Other than his food-critic parents' inventive threats (and equally inventive but much less palatable food) Elliot lives a pretty boring life. Then, one day, the letter arrives. To his amazement, he's been invited to tour his Uncle Archie's workplace - the Research and Development department of DENKI-3000. Not only that, his friend Leslie has been invited as well. There's just one problem...he doesn't have a friend named Leslie! But he soon will...

Together, Elliot and Leslie discover the Creature Department, the most mysterious and inventive section of DENKI-3000. But all is not well; the company is in trouble, the creatures who staff the department are threatened, and there's something terrible hiding in the park.

This is a wild romp featuring fantastical creatures, gross-out humor, wacky inventions, and some old-fashioned villains. The final version will have additional illustrations and multimedia aspects which I didn't see (I read this as an egalley).

At 326 pages the book felt too long for its intended audience to me. Of course, I can't tell from my egalley how much of that will be taken up by the multimedia aspects, but it's still quite a chunk of book. I would say it's directed at a younger middle grade audience with the cartoonish creatures, gross-out humor, and several digressions into didactic discussions of how the inventions are fueled by the essence of hope, etc. and those kids are generally less likely to pick up something really thick. Elliot and Leslie are one-dimensional and the plot skips wildly around, throwing in new characters and creatures and ending with the actual hero being a creature everyone discounted and teased.

Verdict: Older kids looking for fantasy where they can get immersed in the plot and characters will be disappointed, but hand this one to those kids who are camped out in your 398 section perusing the guides to monsters and dragons and other books with lots of fun pictures and creature trivia and they'll love it. Not a top pick perhaps, but definitely an additional purchase that will find a happy home in most mid-sized to large libraries.

ISBN: 9781595146854; Published November 2013 by Razorbill; Egalley provided by the publisher for review

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