Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Holiday Expandinator: It's Halloween. I'm Turning Green! bhy Dan Gutman

I still can't get over the fact that on Halloween people just hand you candy and you don't even have to pay for it or anything! Halloween is the best holiday of all.

By now the streets were filled with lots of kids out trick-or-treating. We saw some pretty scary-looking costumes. Then I saw the most hideous, horrifying creature in the history of the world.

It was Andrea Young. And she was with her crybaby friend Emily. "We're good witches, not bad witches," Andrea informed us.

I'm a mutant zombie pirate," said Ryan. Arghhhhhh!"

"I'm the underwerewolf!" said Billy. Grrrrrrrr!"

"My mom told me that violent costumes are inappropriate for children," Andrea said.

The usual suspects are all assembled in Dan Gutman's latest in his My Weird School series, My Weird School Special: It's Halloween, I'm Turning Green! (Harper, 2013). The guys are randomly costumed,  (Billy in his annual appearance in his underpants), with the sole objective of collecting enough candy to last all year, while the girls ;loudly proclaim their plan to donate their candy to poor children and save the world, but before the two groups finish swapping insults, they are menaced by The Halloween Monster, a huge, hairy, black-furred dude who extorts all their loot.

It was the worst thing to happen since TV Turnoff Week!

To console the guys, Andrea persuades them to follow her to the weird Mrs. Yonker's house for a special Halloween treat. As fans of the series know, Mrs. Yonkers is bonkers, and this Halloween she has a new invention, the MicroMole 4000 Expandinator, to try out on her hapless students. And when she turns A. J.'s bite-sized Hershey bar into a confection the size of a Thanksgiving turkey, Arlo is all for giving their diminished cache of candy the Expandinator treatment.

But, as if on cue, who should appear again  but The Halloween Monster.  And this time he's not after their candy; he's after Mrs. Yonker's invention, with which he plans to control the known world! Can even Mrs. Yonkers out-wrestle this threat and make the world safe for the rest of the Weird School year?

The prolific Dan Gutman has several (marginally) more serious series to his credit (The Million Dollar Series, The Genius Files, and his notable historical fiction cum fantasy series, Baseball Card Adventures, all cleverly crafted tales often touted for "reluctant readers," but this one is simply full-fledged super-sized silliness devoted to adventures in the world of the Weird School and its kooky staff and students.  Gutman (or his weary but game editors) even adds a Halloween-themed appendix, replete with "Weird Halloween Facts," (...because it's really important to learn stuff so you won't grow up to be a dumbhead like certain people--Andrea--I know), "Mystery Maze," "Monster Match," "Wacky-Word Story Time," "My Weird School Trivia Questions," and much, MUCH MORE! Sure, it's the bite-sized fiction equivalent of trick-or-treat sweets, but a little bit of silliness, like a spoonful of sugar, makes the rest of the school year go down! Go ahead. Have a Green Halloween!

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