cover image The Creature from the Seventh Grade: Boy or Beast

The Creature from the Seventh Grade: Boy or Beast

Bob Balaban, illus. by Andy Rash. Viking, $15.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-670-01271-8

The onset of puberty is bad enough under most circumstances, but when one’s bodily changes include scaly green skin, a tail, flippers, and gills, that’s just cruel. Such is the lot of 12-year-old Charles Drinkwater, who permanently transforms into an amphibious creature during science class one October morning, thanks to “mutant dinosaur” genes in his DNA that his parents neglected to tell him about, not wanting to upset him. “Can you tell me why Grampa Wallabird married a mutant dinosaur,” Charlie asks them during a heart-to-heart about his family history, “or will that upset me too much?” Rather than spell social doom, however, Charlie’s transformation actually increases the former outcast’s popularity; this, in turn, endangers his relationship with his unrepentantly geeky two best friends and attracts even more attention from a bullying classmate. Actor/director Balaban (the McGrowl series) laces his story with film references—particularly horror classics—using a dry sense of humor (amplified by Rash’s spot-art cartoons) and the supportive presence of Charlie’s parents and his Bela Lugosi–style science teacher to deliver an endearingly quirky story about embracing oneself. Ages 10–up. (Sept.)