cover image Elliot and the Goblin War

Elliot and the Goblin War

Jennifer A. Nielsen, illus. by Gideon Kendall, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, $12.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4022-4019-5

Launching a series, this cockeyed farce opens on Halloween night, when eight-year-old Elliot rescues a girl who's being chased by two kids who he thinks want her sack of candy. Turns out the three aren't costumed trick-or-treaters, but residents of the Underworld: Patches is a Brownie and her tormentors are Goblins. Employing some twisted logic, the Goblins decide that even though Elliot humiliated them, they won't declare war on humans, but instead go to war with the Brownies, who they are fond of eating. Three years later, Patches's father proclaims Elliot king of the Brownies when their queen dies, and a Brownie defector named Fudd Fartwick enlists the Goblins' aid to kill Elliot so Fudd can claim the crown. Kendall's grayscale illustrations, imbued with a cinematic polish and liveliness, are a welcome enhancement to Nielsen's story, which sometimes skids with the force of its heavy-handed humor (the author repeatedly inserts warnings to stop reading as to avoid the dismal fates of earlier readers). Still, middle-graders with a taste for the über-silly will likely want to catch the next installment. Ages 8–13. (Oct.)