With the third book in the Monstertown Mystery series, “Invasion of the Scorp-Lions,” author Bruce Hale shows that he can write a series in which each book brings something new to the plate.
At first, this episode appears to be like the two previous books with the main characters, narrator Carlos and his friend Benny, learning that something strange is going on in the basement of the school. They think it’s a ghost, and because of the kids and teacher who encountered the creature and are now in comas, they know it’s dangerous.
But here the story gets interesting because Hale brings in an additional character, Esme, whose mother creates monsters, and whose family comes from a long line of monster-creators. Their last name is Ygorre (pronounced Igor).
A character from the previous book, Tina, also known as Karate Girl, joins the boys on their monster-hunting adventure, and Esme gives a hand, too. At the end of the book, there is an event that explains why there will be lots and lots of monstery sequels to these books.
While the subject of the books — monsters — and the clever, catchy lenticular, 3D-ish cover make the books look like light reading material, Hale includes a quite serious secondary plot in each book. In this book, Carlos is worried about his parents divorcing.
Also, Hale’s use of figurative language and imagery throughout the books should thrill teachers as they use excerpts from the book when teaching narrative or descriptive writing. “The mechanical room was as comfy and inviting as a concrete crypt at midnight. Mr. Boo had thoughtfully stacked five folding chairs and a card table in the middle of the room, for that homey touch.” Imagery and a touch of sarcasm in two very funny sentences.
While many readers (this one included) might take offense at Hale’s characterization of Barry Manilow’s music as “A scorp-lion’s worst nightmare” and “soppy strings and drippy vocals,” he does have Carlos admit to humming along with one of the songs after a while. Hale also gives Benny some humorous lines when he mixes up words. A teacher thinks the monster smell is from feral cats, so Benny asks, “What are Will Ferrell’s pets doing here?”
This series is a perfect choice for reluctant readers and adventure lovers from third grade through middle school. Humor and horror – a great combination. Also an excellent choice for teachers looking for a read aloud that will teach kids about imagery.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Disney-Hyperion Books, for review purposes.