Friday, September 30, 2011

Book Review: Wiley & Grampa's Creature Features, by Kirk Scroggs (Little, Brown, 2006)

 Recommended for ages 8-12

The Wiley & Grampa books take the sting out of scary books for kids by making them hilarious and gross. They got in early on the 'potty humor makes boys read' trend that I have seen time and again, but author Kirk Scroggs gets it, and he writes well.

The stories revolve around young Wiley, a boy who lives with his grandmother and grandfather, in what appears to be "good ole boy country". Wiley and his grandfather loves Pork Cracklins and monster trucks, and his grandmother is always after them to finish chores. Somehow, Wiley and Grampa always end up in trouble with the supernatural.

In the first book, Dracula vs. Grampa at the Monster Truck Spectacular, Wiley and Grampa sneak out to go to a monster truck show, despite Gramma's telling them that with the storm coming, no one is going any where. They meet Dracula himself, and get the sneaking suspicion that Dracula's very interested in Gramma, who just happens to resemble Drac's dead wife. If that isn't enough to entice readers, there are monster trucks. That run on blood.

In Grampa's Zombie BBQ, Wiley, Grampa and Gramma are having barbecue and Gramma's making her famous honey paprika barbecue sauce. When a horde of zombies shows up and shows an appetite for Gramma's food, all is fine - until the food runs out, leaving Wiley and his grandparents to fend for themselves. But can the lunch lady and her toxic beet borscht save the day?
The books are great for younger readers who are still getting into the swing of chapter books, for readers who want a good laugh, or readers who want their monsters a little less threatening. Wiley and his family are funny, and they are never really in any danger, giving more skittish readers reassurance. The books are illustrated with blackand white sketches on every page and the characters are drawn as exaggerated, caricature-like people.

There are ten Wiley & Grampa books available, the last of which came out in 2009. Kirk Scroggs' website does not shy away from this series at all; rather, they are front and center on the page. Mr. Scroggs has links to each of the books and features a sneak peak of each of them, and he also links to his Picasa album so visitors can view pictures from his author appearances. A Fun & Games area of the website offers games, printables (including "Crackpot Snapshot", also featured at the end of each book, where the reader has to find the differences between two versions of the same picture), and wallpaper.  

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