Bruce Hale is a master when it comes to using colorful, figurative language in his writing. “Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies,” his sequel to “The Curse of the Were-Hyena,” is filled with great imagery. When narrator Carlos describes his best friend, Benny, and himself he says, “…we’d been just your typical comics nerds — as plain as white rice on an ivory plate.” He also noticed that “time was running out like Halloween candy in November.”
Similarly clever imagery is sprinkled throughout the story. Carlos is a diverse main character. His abuelita (grandmother) lives with them during the week when Carlos’ mother is in Los Angeles with his budding television star younger sister. Abuelita is not only an amazing cook (she makes mole), but she plays the saxophone and sprinkles Spanish in her dialogue.
When an acquaintance, AJ, approaches them claiming that he saw one of the lunch ladies turn into a giant bug for a second, Carlos and Benny investigate. It’s not long before things at school turn weird. The lunch ladies start to serve the boys and girls different food, and the behavior of the girls begins to change.
Carlos and Benny discover what the problem with the lunch ladies might be, but in order to figure out how to save the school, the town — maybe the world? — they have to use all their ingenuity.
With expressions that will make you smile, and sometimes make you hungry (“A crafty expression spread over Benny’s normally innocent features, like a pat of butter on a hot tortilla.”), this book is one that would be a fabulous read aloud for second or third grade. It would be a great book for reluctant readers — it has the perfect combination of humor and horror. And once kids read this book, they’ll be hooked on Bruce Hale. His “Chet Gecko” series is also a winner.
The cover on this book is worthy of comment. It’s called a “lenticular” cover, but it looks like a hologram where the lunch lady is revealed behind the creepy giant insect with bulgy green eyes.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for review purposes.