Joshua Dread: The Next Great Super (hero/villain)?
We are happy to welcome our co-worker Bobbie back to the blog today with this excellent book review:
As a child, I was never much of a reader of superhero fiction. I found the genre stressful, and maybe a little too aggressive for my girlish taste. But now, as I try to read most of the books we publish, I have found that my taste has expanded. Especially if I find a book that is written well. Especially when it’s funny. Silly even. And especially when it’s original. So when I began to read the debut middle grade novel from Lee Bacon, Joshua Dread—a book that embodies all of these things—I was really excited. I was hooked from the very first lines on the very first page: ”Our class got out of sixth period early the day my parents tried to flood the earth.” And the pages kept turning.
Joshua Dread is the first in a new middle grade series about a boy of the same name, who is dealing with all the normal things that a sixth-grader deals with: making and keeping friends, avoiding bullies and dealing with his parents. Except…oh, wait, that’s right….his parents also happen to be supervillians!!! As if dealing with middle school wasn’t enough…
The story opens up with Joshua’s parents, “The Dread Duo”, attempting to flood the world (if their monetary demands are not accepted by the government). Lucky for Joshua, no one knows the true identities of his parents, only the cover story he’s told his classmates. In this opening scene, the pair has conjured a terrible and deadly storm, which is ultimately compromised by the entrance of their arch-nemisis—the narcissistic and somewhat dim-witted “Captain Justice.” The scene is action-packed, cartoonish in every good way, and a little bit comedic as it is all being told from the perspective of Joshua, the lighthearted yet embarrassed perspective of a twelve-year-old boy, who is struggling between the love he has for his parents and his desire for normalcy.
It’s this normalcy that seems to grow further and further out of reach as the story continues, especially when you learn early on that Joshua is starting to show signs of his own superpower, which he must decide to use for good or for evil. Guess which route his parents hope he takes.
And yet, what saves this book from melodrama and makes it truly enjoyable is the balance between the action/adventure superhero quest of right versus wrong, and the genuineness that makes up the familial backbone of the story. The descriptions of Joshua’s home life are original and down-right funny. Joshua’s mom, who has the power to control plants with her mind, keeps zombies in the basement and has invented a mutant ficus (named Micus) that seems to have a grudge against Joshua. His Dad attempts to create the perfect inventions for supervillians, and often uses his superpower ability to see for incredible distances in order to gain insight into his son’s current situations at school. This of course, reminds the readers that no matter how evil Joshua’s parents are, they are at the end of the day, his parents. And they love him as any normal parents would.
Throughout, we are introduced to Joshua’s best friend Milton—a great side-kick, though somewhat star-struck by Captain Justice. And the new girl at school, Sophie Smith, who Joshua takes an immediate interest in, especially because she seems to have a few secrets of her own. The great list of characters combine to create a fantastic first installment to a series about growing up with some very original obstacles. Will Joshua hone his powers for good or for evil? What will he do when the infamous “smoke creatures” begin to kidnap bad guys? And what we he do when his family may be their next target?
Need I say that I am totally sucked in?!
I am not the only one that sees something special in this new middle grade series. The 2012 New Voices Committee has named Joshua Dread to the ABC New Voices List for fall 2012, recognizing the title as an extraordinary debut. And Publishers Weekly said of the book: “Bacon’s deadpan narrative hums along with outrageous details, humor, and action…A hero with a double life and a colossal set of parental issues, Joshua handles zombies, killer robots, and teenage girls without losing his cool. Bacon’s affectionately playful take on the superhero genre introduces bombastic personalities without reducing the characters to caricatures.”
May I also mention that Joshua Dread was a huge hit for a group of kids at the Voracious Reader, in Larchmont, NY last month, when Lee Bacon stopped by to introduce himself and his new book to readers. After Lee read just a brief excerpt, the curiosity and excitement poured out from the crowd of 8-12 year olds. “How did Joshua’s Mom create Micus?”, the kids wanted to know. “Does Joshua have a superpower like his Mom and Dad?!” I am sure they have since found out. Perhaps they should write the next review?!
Author Lee Bacon signing a copy of Joshua Dread for early fans
Try this out for Percy Jackson and N.D. Wilson fans, Harry Potter fans, boys and girls that love comics and superheroes, boys and girls that love a funny, good read, boys and girls that deserve something extra fun for the holidays. Or better yet, try this one out for yourself. Take it from me, the girl who now loves superhero (or supervillian) stories!