Saturday, September 17, 2011

Book Review: Fred & Anthony Escape from the Netherworld and Fred & Anthony Meet the Heine Goblins from the Black Lagoon, by Elise Primavera (Hyperion, 2007 & 2008)

Recommended for ages 9-12

I'm combining these two into one book review because they are from the same series by the same author.

Fred and Anthony are two kids whose only wish is to find someone to make money for them so that they can relax, eat Chex Mix and Pez, and watch horror movies. In their first adventure, Escape from the Netherworld, they decide to make some money so that they can afford to pay someone to do their schoolwork; because they already have a reputation for botched and unfinished jobs in their own neighborhood, they strike out for a new neighborhood, and end up falling through to the Netherworld by way of a bathroom. Luckily, Fred has the foresight to grab a Guide to the Netherworld, which helps them navigate their way past evil dentists, deceptively dressed werewolves, and Count Dracula himself. They make their way back home only to discover that a ghost has followed them - so they hire him as a ghost writer (get it?) to write about their adventures. Their get rich quick plan is under way!

Their third adventure, Fred & Anthony Meet the Heinie Goblins from the Black Lagoon, catches readers up on the first two books, so it is not detrimental to readers if they skip any in the series. In Heinie Goblins, Fred and Anthony go to summer camp, sent by grandmothers and parents who have the best of intentions for their summer. Naturally, it's all a ruse, and the camp, run by two Wise Guy types named Carmine and Vinnie, is a dump serving cold Hot Pockets with warm water, forcing them to have recreation time in leaky canoes on the questionable Lake Gitchie Lagoonie, and haunting them by dressing up as The Burnt Marshmallow Mummy and The Lone Short-Sheeting Stranger. While out on Lake Gitchie Lagoonie, the boys' canoe capsizes and they end up back in The Netherworld for a brief time, until their escape from the Creature from the Black Lagoon leads them back up to the Camp.

The boys decide that they can make money by charging kids for trips to The Netherworld, and start running tours. Once back in The Netherworld, they meet the Heinie Goblins - cute little batlike creatures with bare backsides. Despite the Guide to the Netherworld's warning about the goblins being "a pain in the butt", the boys allow a goblin to accompany them back to the camp. Naturally, the goblin brings friends along, who start menacing all the kids in the camp. When Carmine and Vinnie show up to terrorize the campers as the Lone Short-Sheeting Stranger and the Burnt Marshmallow Mummy, the goblins become jealous of losing the audience's attention - the book is, after all, named for them - and attack, leaving the boys to figure out a way to make things right.

The books are written with the lower end of the age range or the reluctant reader in mind, with black and white illustrations on every page and a mixture of graphic novel/chapter book format. Gross humor will appeal to boys (or girls!) who giggle at a good bathroom joke. The books are slightly more than 100 pages in length, making them easy and quick reads for younger children.

The author and illustrator, Elise Primavera, "ghost wrote" these books under the name Esile Arevamirp. There are four Fred & Anthony titles, but was surprised that the author's website had no mention of them; I even attempted to find a website for her alter ego but found nothing. Turning to YouTube, discovered Rat Chat Reviews, an animated video review site for children's books; the rats posted an interview with Fred and Anthony on the cancellation of their series. Regardless of whether or not there are any more Fred & Anthony books in the future, the series is still a fun set of books for a younger or reluctant reader.

No comments: