Joshua Dread

illus. by Brandon Dorman. 258p. Delacorte. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-385-74185-9; PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-0-375-99027-4; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98721-2; LC 2012003155.
Gr 4–6—Middle school is tough enough when the only things you have to worry about are getting your homework done and avoiding the sixth-grade bully. But when your parents are Dr. Dread and the Botanist, evil supervillains who try to destroy the world on a regular basis, life can be a real challenge. As the only son of the Dread Duo, Joshua is used to keeping things undercover-from Mom's mutant houseplants to Dad's death lasers-not to mention the leftover zombie in their basement. It doesn't help that his best friend is a fan of Captain Justice, the Duo's archenemy. Until now, Milton has been unaware of his pal's family secret, but then Justice's daughter, Sophie, moves into their class. Furthermore, Joshua is beginning to manifest a super "Gyft" of his own. The ability to generate spontaneous combustion-and cause stuff to explode-is cool, but can be inconvenient when you accidentally incinerate your bedroom. This lighthearted fantasy pokes gentle fun at the conventional superhero meme and takes some sly digs at media-driven celebrity as well. Aside from their fiendish felonies, the Duo are concerned, caring parents. Super Dad Justice, on the other hand, always seems to have one eye on his product endorsements. Joshua's struggles with his sometimes erratic superpower will resonate with readers coping with their own changing bodies and emotions.—Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL
Unbeknownst to anyone else in Sheepsdale, New York, Joshua’s parents are the Dread Duo, two of the world’s most dastardly supervillains. They spend their time cooking up evil schemes, which are inevitably foiled by their nemesis, Captain Justice -- a product-endorsing blowhard who uses weapons such as the Protective Umbrella of Virtue to grand effect. To Joshua, however, the Dread Duo is still Mom and Dad. So when they’re kidnapped, along with a host of other villains, by mysterious “smoke creatures,” it’s up to Joshua to rescue his parents and save the day. He does so in spectacular fashion, armed with a newly discovered, hard-to-control talent for spontaneous combustion and some help from his friends, including Captain Justice’s daughter. Joshua’s understated, deadpan narration is usually quite funny (“It’s embarrassing to run into your parents when you’re with people from school, especially when your parents are about to destroy the planet”), and imaginative details (such as the zombies that can be mollified with tofu, and the evil lair that’s controlled via smartphone apps) add to the fun. Black-and-white caricatures of each character, interspersed throughout, enhance the comic-book vibe. rachel l. smith

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