Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wiley & Grampa's Creature Features

In a fairly recent post at Nymeth's blog in which she reviewed The Complete Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby, she included the following passage from the book:

“And please, please stop patronizing those who are reading a book – The Da Vinci Code maybe – because they are enjoying it. For a start, none of us know what kind of an effort this represents for the individual reader. It could be his or her first full-length adult novel; it might be the book that finally reveals the purpose and joy of reading to someone who has hitherto been mystified by the attraction books exert on others. And anyway, reading for enjoyment is what we should all be doing."

That passage came to mind as I thought about what to say about this book, which is written in the vein of Captain Underpants and other fairly silly books for kids. Often when I'm at the library, I see children run to their parents excitedly with an armful of books to check out, but one look at the books, and the parents are nixing a whole bunch of them. The kids seem so disappointed, and I want to say, "Isn't reading supposed to be fun? Aren't we supposed to be instilling a love of reading in these kids?"

This is one of those books that some parents will eye with distaste, and it certainly isn't for every reader - but it's fast-paced, full of adventure, and funny. And if it brings kids pleasure and makes them want to read another one, isn't that the point? Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now.

The book opens with a warning to readers, saying that the story is so frightening that certain people (including the faint of heart, pregnant women, children under 46" tall - as well as those who are scared of bats, rats, or old hippies) should put the book down immediately. As the story begins, Grampa and Wiley are carving pumpkins in preparation for Halloween. When they see a commercial for Colonel Dracula's Monster Truck Spectacular, they both know they just have to go - even though a tornado is headed their way and Gramma has expressly forbidden it.

When they make it to the colusseum (barely) in one piece, they find themselves chosen from the crowd to drive a British Mini Pip-Squeak car in a game of chicken against Dracula's terrifying mudsucker monster truck - while being pursued by gigantic robotic lobster claws. As hair-raising as that particular experience is, their troubles are only just beginning. As if it weren't bad enough that Gramma's going to be furious when she discovers that they've gone out during the tornado, wait till she find out that Dracula seems to be very interested in her - for she's the spitting image of the portrait of his dearly departed wife! Grampa and Wiley had better act fast if they want to keep their family together.

The large, bold illustrations and sizable comic-book-style font makes this an appealing book to even the most reluctant readers. It seems angled to attract boys, but both my daughters devoured it in a single sitting and giggled the whole way through. The humor tickled my funny bone as well: one of the monster cars had a large sharpened stake on its roof and was called "Vlad the Impala" - and in a later scene, when Grampa and Wiley go into Dracula's lair, they find a shelf full of various skulls, one of which is labeled "Abby Normal" (Young Frankenstein is one of my favorite films, so I particularly appreciated that one!).

Books in the Wiley and Grampa's Creature Feature series:

1. Dracula vs. Grampa at the Monster Truck Spectacular
2. Grampa's Zombie BBQ
3. Monster Fish Frenzy
4. Super Soccer Freak Show
5. Bigfoot Backpacking Bonanza
6. Hairball from Outer Space
Night of the Living Eggnog
8. Phantom of the Waterpark

9. Curse of the Kitty Litter

Dracula vs. Grampa at the Monster Truck Spectacular (#1 in the Wiley & Grampa's Creature Features series) by Kirk Scroggs (Little, Brown and Company, 2006)


  1. My parents didn't read when I was a kid (I finally got my mom hooked a few years ago) so I never was restricted from reading anything I wanted to. We'd always leave with (literally!) a box full of books.... which is probably why I like to check so many out at a time now lol!

  2. That's great that you got your mom hooked on reading - good for you! We had a magical bag (it was my dad's old kit bag from his army days) that always seemed to be able to fit one more book inside when we were at the library, no matter how many books we checked out! :-)

  3. "Often when I'm at the library, I see children run to their parents excitedly with an armful of books to check out, but one look at the books, and the parents are nixing a whole bunch of them."

    It's too bad that some parents do that - why would a parent stop their kids from reading a book they're excited about? And possibly the same parents who want their kids to read the "right" books will later complain that the kids don't read at all...

    Blah for elitism. Reading should indeed be fun!

  4. You said it, Nymeth! :-)

  5. (please note, all R-sounds in the following passage are to be read with a sophisticated muffled trill.)

    Reading for pleasure? Whaaaat? Are you a barbarian? Do you not know that literacy is the last bastion of aristocracy? If we read for pleasure, then we would be as base as the proletariat who wine, dine and lay supine for pleasure. And we see where that has gotten them! No, no, no! One reads out of obligation to ascend to his or her betters or to maintain existing superiority. Reading, my dear, is obligation, not avocation. Now, do scurry along, I must return to the Aeneid ... which I'm reading in original Latin, of course!

    (obnoxious Molly sniffs, and adjusts her glasses to the end of her nose. she then coughs lightly as the dust from her antique copy wafts upward.)

  6. Here, here. Reading *should* be fun. I think the whole point of checking out a whole armful of books is to see which ones you like in the end.

    Loved the "Vlad the Impala" joke. I'll be herding the kids towards these this summer.

    Molly - Hee, hee! That was great.

  7. Rachael - yes! Don't you just love the feeling you get when you take a huge bunch of books home from the library?!


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