Happy Monday, Reading Nook!
We're kicking off the week with an advanced review of The Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier, Doug Holgate this week!
I haven't heard a zombie/end-of-the-world being described as "hilarious" since Shaun of the Dead, so I definitely knew that I had to read this book!
MMGM is a feature hosted by (fabulous) author Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Hardcover, 240 pages
Expected publication: October 13th 2015 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Format read: ARC via publisher
One-part Swiss Family Robinson, and one-part Walking Dead, Max Brallier and Doug Holgate's well-imagined book is sure to appeal to readers with big imaginations.
Ever since the monster apocalypse hit town, average thirteen year old Jack Sullivan has been living in his tree house, which he's armed to the teeth with catapults and a moat, not to mention video games and an endless supply of Oreos and Mountain Dew scavenged from abandoned stores. But Jack alone is no match for the hoards of Zombies and Winged Wretches and Vine Thingies, and especially not for the eerily intelligent monster known only as Blarg. So Jack builds a team: his dorky best friend, Quint; the reformed middle school bully, Dirk; Jack's loyal pet monster, Rover; and Jack's crush, June. With their help, Jack is going to slay Blarg, achieve the ultimate Feat of Apocalyptic Success, and be average no longer! Can he do it?
So naturally, my intereste was piqued, when I read a pitch that described The Last Kids on Earth as "hilarious", and similar to The Simpsons. And lo and behold, it was! Author Max Brallier and illustrator Douglas Holgate, introduce us to thirteen-year-old Jack Sullivan, a former foster kid who has been learning to survive in a post-monster, post-zombie apocalypse world.
While life is definitely different, Jack and friend Quint, and former arch-nemesis Dirk, rely on their wits and a bit of teenage ingenuity to survive, including creating Feats of Apocalyptic Success, a healthy diet of Oreos, and fortifying a tree house that would make members of The Swiss Family Robinson jealous. However, things get a little complicated when Jack decides to take on Blarg, an eerily intelligent monster with an agenda, while also trying to save his crush...
What's delightful about The Last Kids on Earth, is that Max Brallier makes it clear right off the bath, that this is the type of apocalypse which is going to focus on the adaptability (and occasional benefits) of teens in an adult-free world.
While Jack does acknowledge that both he and his friends have experienced loss - e.g. Jack comes home to realize that he's literally been left behind by his foster family, and ends up sleeping for days out of depression - the book is primarily a study on how teens can cope with even the weirdest of situations, with practicality and thoughtfulness.
Brallier shows us how Jack basically makes fighting off monsters into a game - his Feats will make anyone familiar with video games chuckle - and both he and Quint are able to build a working tree house, albeit with some teenage perks, like a working XBox. But it's the friendships that really drive the story forward; Brallier creates several storylines, including one monster-themed one, where we see that desperate times help foes become friends, and how despite their young age, Jack, Quint and their friends, are able to basically find a newfound family in each other.
Outside of Brallier's story, the illustrations by Douglas Holgate are pitch perfect. They contain all of the icky, gooey bits that one expects with a monster/zombie tale, and are sketched out with a vibrancy that brings each moment to life. And this was only in the advanced reader copy - I can't wait to see what things look like in the finished copy.
I highly recommend this book for reluctant readers. To quote Kirkus: "Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist." Both Brallier's snappy writing - zombie ball?! - and Holgate's vibrant illustrations, will keep the imaginations of young readers riveted.
As for me, I'll definitely check out more of Max Brallier and Douglas Holgate's work in the future!
About the author:
Max Brallier is the author of more than twenty books and games for children and adults, including the pick-your-own-path adventure Can YOU Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?
Under the pen name Jack Chabert, he is the creator and author of the Eerie Elementary series for Scholastic Books. He is a game designer for the crazy fun virtual world Poptropica and does freelance game design for numerous online properties. In the olden days, he worked in the marketing department at St. Martin’s Press. Max lives in New York City with his wife.
Douglas Holgate has been a freelance comic book artist and illustrator based in Melbourne, Australia for more than ten years. He's illustrated books for publishers such as HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster, including the Planet Tad series, Cheesie Mack, Case File 13, and Zoo Sleepover.
He's currently working on the self-published series Maralinga, which received grant funding from the Australian Society of Authors and the Victorian Council for the Arts, as well as the all-ages graphic novel Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race, published by Scholastic Graphix, both co-created with writer Jen Breach.