The Last Halloween: Book 1; Children

Iron Circus. Sept. 2020. 400p. pap. $25. ISBN 9781945820663.
Gr 9 Up–Ten-year-old Mona loves Halloween. However, this year’s holiday is different—her mother is dead, her other parent has party plans, and murderous monsters are rampaging through her town. The latter seems like a colossal prank until an enormous, six-legged, skull-faced creature nearly crushes Mona in her living room. When she escapes to a nearby cemetery, she finds a group of young misfits digging up a corpse. She joins these strange kids, and they deliver the corpse to Doctor Fugue, an Invisible Man–style bandaged mad scientist. He teaches Mona monster history and sends her, accompanied by her new friends, on a hero’s quest to stop the barrage of creatures. Then the fun and adventure, comedy, and gore kick into high gear. Howard’s writing is so razor-sharp, it might have blood dripping from it. She seamlessly incorporates horror references and sophisticated comedic bits into a monster story packed with new lore. Her art is by turns fun and horrifying, with influences from Kate Beaton’s pop-eyed ponies to Edward Gorey’s lanky figures all in one gorgeous story. After a sad start, Howard gives Mona an epic, grotesque, and humorous Halloween after all.
VERDICT Teen fans of “Courtney Crumrin,” “Emily the Strange,” “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac,” and Camp Midnight will devour this one.

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