A Bite Above the Rest

S. & S./Aladdin. Aug. 2024. 320p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781665946575.
Gr 4-7–In this spooky middle grade adventure, Caleb and his mom relocate to the town of Samhain, WI, where Halloween is always on full display. Costumes in school are expected, businesses are decked out with themed decor, and even the mayor’s office keeps “vampire hours.” But when his English teacher’s fangs and fur seem a bit too real, and his next door neighbor brews potions and has a wand, Caleb begins to wonder if Samhain is hiding a dark secret. Thankfully, he can rely on his friend and classmate Tai to help unravel this mystery, and they research and test theories to ward off werewolves and witches. Their actions raise the suspicions of the mayor, and what follows is a race to expose the truth behind Samhain to the rest of the town before Caleb and Tai’s efforts are undone. The book strikes a good balance of humor alongside the horror: Caleb’s daily choice of punny costume (e.g., writing “Go Ceiling Go!” on his hoodie to become a “ceiling fan”) was a regular feature, and Caleb and Tai’s illustrated monster research manual was peppered with good-humored sniping between them. A nighttime escape from a giant in the town library and full moon encounters with werewolves bring tension, but the book never gets so intense as to scare off readers. This is a good read-alike for fans of Kory Merritt’s No Place For Monsters.
VERDICT A fun title to get into the hands of middle graders, especially ones who can’t get enough of Halloween.

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