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Cryptids, Ghosts, and Monsters|Books in Brief

Detail of cover of Martian Ghost Centaur

Here’s a collection of titles that feature cryptids, ghosts, and zombies. But all the stories resonate more than just fear and thrills.

Cover of The Last Kids on Earth: Thrilling Tales from the Tree House

The Last Kids on Earth: Thrilling Tales from the Tree House
By Max Braillier, Douglas Holgate & Friends
Penguin Random House, 2021
Grades 4 and up

The Last Kids on Earth is a popular prose series and a Netflix animated series. It’s only natural that the series, which is illustrated, would make it as a graphic novel. The comic isn’t a retelling of the original series, but instead, has all the friends battling for a chance to battle a monster by telling a story about their fiercest fight. The stories are filled with humor, action, and adventure. For readers who’ve never read The Last Kids on Earth, it might be a way to introduce them to the series, and for those who are already fans, they will love to see more epic adventures.

When the kids are in the treehouse, blue tones are used to color the story, but the adventures they retell are fully colorized. Holgate, the original artist of the series, had some “assistance” and various artists drew the different stories. The artwork will thrill readers with just enough gore and fun. And though there are differences in the style, there is a cohesive look to the artwork.

This is a must-add to graphic novel collections in classrooms and libraries.

Cover of Martian Ghost Centaur

Martian Ghost Centaur
By Mat Heagerty and Steph Mided
Oni Press, 2021
Grades 7 and Up

17-year-old Louie loves her town of Southborough and the lore it’s built on. Before she was born, one of her dads was scared by a Sasquatch, and the town became a major tourist attraction. But with cell phones and technology, the cryptid craze died down as did the tourism, draining the town’s economy. Her Dads might have to sell their diner, and many people have already sold to a tech start-up looking to buy up the town. Louie though is determined to save her Dads’ diner and the town, so she cooks up a plan to scare the tech predators with a fake Martian Ghost Centaur.

There are colorful and fun characters in this book. Each gives a huge flavor to the town and story. Humor is peppered throughout with silly scenarios, like the Air B&B that Louie runs from her bedroom closet. Readers will sympathize with Louie, who is trying to hold on to her old ways and keep her town viable, while best friend Felix is looking to move on.

The artwork pops with bright colors and clean lines. At times the characters’ reactions are exaggerated in a manga style, and it works very well. The hyperbole in the artwork and story just adds to the humor.

YA readers who enjoy a bit of the supernatural and lots of humor will really enjoy this book. There’s a lot of room for more stories with Louie and the people of Southborough.

Cover of The Big Break

The Big Break
By Mark Tatulli
Little Brown and Company, 2020
Grades 5 and up

Best friends Andrew and Russ are working on a video project. Their love is hunting cryptids, and they are focused on proving there is a Jersey Devil, which is part of the local lore. The local librarian, Miss Robins, encourages and aids the boys in their quest. But when Russ starts hanging out with Tara, suddenly Andrew isn’t mature enough to be with him. He’s spending less time on the movie, and he seems not to believe in the cryptid anymore. The boys have a huge fight that seems not to have any end in sigh,t until there is a sighting of the Jersey Devil. The boys along with their friends and Miss Robins set out to find it and finally prove its truth. But will Andrew and Russ’s fight go too far and harm Miss Robins?

This is a great coming-of-age story about friendship and angst. Often when I read stories with these themes, girls are the central characters, so it was refreshing to see boys portrayed trying to navigate middle school friendship while each friend drifts in a different direction. The characters are well drawn and likable. Readers will be able to identify with many of the emotions conveyed in the books.

The artwork is large and bright. The characters are expressive. Tatulli makes good use of the panels, varying them in different ways to further the story, as in a side-by-side scene where Andrew and Russ are in their own homes following a cryptid story, each wanting to contact the other. They both fall back, deflated, as they realize they aren’t talking to their friends.

This is a great read for middle school and middle-grade readers. And the surprise ending will satisfy all.

Editor’s Note: For more spooky stories, check out Johanna Draper Carlson’s 2018 post, Ghosts: A Not-So-Scary Roundup.

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Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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