Friday, September 7, 2018

Monster Mayhem by Christopher Eliopoulos

I really disliked the first book in this series, Cosmic Commandos, because of how unpleasant the characters were. However, fortunately you don't need to read the first book to follow this second title because I really enjoyed this one!

Zoe, a robots genius, loves to watch classic monster movies and hang out with the robot she created. Her parents would like her to make some "real" friends, but the one time she tried, way back in elementary school, it was all a fake. The girl was just pretending to be her friend. Devastated, Zoe refuses to reach out again and isolates herself in her new, high-tech school for gifted kids. Her parents are busy with her triplet brothers and Zoe is all alone, just the way she wants it. But one day, frustrated by her parents and teachers trying to urge her to make friends and secretly lonely, she picks up a ring, wishes the monsters in her movies were real and that night, in the midst of a storm... a real kaiju (monster) shows up at her window! She's finally got a friend, exactly the one she wanted.

But things get complicated fast - her new friend Chomp has got family and friends of his own and they're very, very hungry. Can Zoe save the city and her friend on her own? And if she can't, will she be willing to not only ask for help but also trust other people and kids?

Zoe, a short black girl with a riot of black curls, stomps through the story in her signature blue overalls and goggles. She would like to have friends, but is too scared to reach out and determined to do everything on her own, without the help of well-meaning adults and the kids she doesn't trust to be sincere in wanting to spend time with her. Her parents are worried about her, but exhausted and preoccupied dealing with rambunctious toddler triplets, shown exuberantly flinging food, dashing through the house naked, and generally created chaos. It's refreshing to see a black girl who is not only interested in but excels in science and technology. Zoe doesn't need a helpful (white) friend to teach her social skills; she's got a kaiju monster and a disaster on her hands that forces her to befriend some of the other kids in school who have already learned to work together; she eventually teams up with her teachers, Mr. Nakajima and Ms. Mahnken, and four kids from school, two white boys and a dark-skinned boy and girl. But in the end, she might need even more help - from her parents?

Verdict: This is full of monsters, robots, exciting action, lots of color, a nice environmental twist, and some heart-felt moments of learning to ask for help and open up to friends, even when it might be scary or painful. Sure to be a hit with HiLo fans and kids who love monsters and robots.

ISBN: 9780735231245; Published 2018 by Dial/Penguin; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

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