Demon (his real name is Pandemonium) is having a bad day. First, he meets his dad for the first time. His dad, the god, Pan. And his dad whisks him off on a scary journey to Olympus! He feels a little better when he finds out he's not going to be sacrificed; he's going to be the beast keeper. He's pretty good with animals and can even talk to them...but nothing like these animals! Demon has to overcome feeling scared and alone, especially since his dad promptly disappeared, and then there's scarier things like having to heal all the beasts that nasty hero Hercules keeps destroying. When Hera shows up with her injured Hydra, will he be able to heal him or will he find himself sent down the poop chute to Tartarus to feed the monsters?
The story is about 140 pages long, with humorous black and white cartoons sprinkled throughout. The chapters are also divided into smaller chunks with lightning bolts, showing changes in the setting or plot. There are several pages of glossary and pronunciation guide which lists the gods, places, beasts, and other mythical beings referenced in the story.
I have to disagree with the publicity that promotes this as "humorous." While it's got lots of cartoon pictures and is told in a lighter fashion, I wouldn't call it laugh-out-loud funny. Demon spends most of the story desperately trying to catch up with events, stay alive, and keep his new animal friends alive as well. But that's not at all a drawback, and other people might find this funny. I loved that this is, for once, a fantasy that's not medieval with fake-diversity (look! his friend is a girl with dark skin! in a feudalistic society that devalues women...*mutter*). It has a mischievously irreverent way of treating the Greek gods and while readers will learn about their myths and enjoy the exciting story, they'll also get a different perspective on the mythic stories that are so popular. How did all those "monsters" Hercules attacked really feel about things? Is Hera good or bad?
Verdict: If you have fans of Joan Holub's Heroes in Training, this is an absolute must purchase series. If not, get this one to start with, as it doesn't have as many volumes as HiT and you can start at the beginning. I enjoyed reading it and can't wait to introduce it to my patrons. Ideal for strong 2nd grade readers up through 4th grade, although older and younger kids will enjoy it as well. Highly recommended.
ISBN: 9780448461939; Published 2015 by Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library (purchased/preordered the rest of the series)