Review: Beetle & the Hollowbones by Aliza Layne
Beetle & the Hollowbones
By Eliza Layne
Atheneum (Simon & Schuster)
Sometimes a debut comes along that so thoroughly shakes you out of your semi-jaded reading life malaise that you find yourself stopping mid-page to ask the universe, “What IS this?!” An absolutely fresh and winning take on the world of witchcraft, Aliza Layne’s Beetle & the Hollowbones is as vibrant a debut as you’re likely to find this year.
Twelve-year-old Beetle is a goblin in training. And she’s gonna need a LOT of training. In her free time she hangs out with her best pal Blob Ghost at the local mall. Actually, they don’t really have a choice of location because of a secret force that keeps Blob Ghost from leaving the premises. Beetle’s old friend Kat comes back to town, along with her creepy aunt Hollowbones, who promptly buys the mall and begins the process of tearing it down. Beetle must find a way to set Blob Ghost free before the mall becomes a pile of rubble.
Look, if you’re going to foray into the trope-filled world of witchcraft, you better bring something new to the party. Layne delivers with writing that heartfelt, honest, and funny. Characters and relationships are grounded in real emotions, making this as much of a work of contemporary fiction as it is a fantasy.
The artwork (featuring coloring by Natalie Riess and Kristen Acampora) is bright and slick, beautifully depicting a story where magic and fantasy meet the bedroom world of a modern tween. Character expressions nearly leap off the page, and inventive panels bring out the action in new ways.
A modern and engaging debut, Beetle & the Hollowbones is going to please a lot of young readers.
Review copy from the publisher.
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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