The Rat Brain Fiasco

Julie Gardner Berry, illus. by Sally Faye Gardner, Penguin/Grosset & Dunlap, $6.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-0-448-45359-0
Sisters Berry and Gardner kick off their Splurch Academy for Disruptive Boys series with an idea best described as Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein in detention. The hero, Cody Mack, is a Class A troublemaker who finally goes too far ("That had been a shame, that thing about the fire in the teacher's lounge") and gets shipped off to the mysterious Splurch Academy. Hogwarts it ain't: the boys wear striped prison uniforms, rats abound, and the ghoulish headmaster and his creepy staff have some unorthodox ideas about behavior modification that involve the "rebellium cortex" ("the part of the brain that makes boys naughty") and a nasty-looking machine called the Rebellio-Rodent Recipronator. But Cody proves that he's more than the sum of his misdemeanors; he's a fearless, natural-born leader and force to be reckoned with—though a dangling conclusion suggests that his standoff with Splurch Academy is just getting warmed up. Gardner's numerous drawings strike the right Cracked Comics note, with just enough panel images to entice graphic novel fans, and Berry's upbeat storytelling delivers gently snarky wit. Available simultaneously: Curse of the Bizarro Beetle. Ages 9–12. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 11/22/2010
Release date: 08/01/2010
Genre: Children's
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