Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Last Kids on Earth

The Last Kids on Earth
Max Brallier
Douglas Holgate, Illustrator
Viking, 2015  227 pgs
Grades 3-7
Science Fiction/Adventure/Humor

Jack Sullivan, former foster kid and wanna be Indiana Jones, finds himself alone trying to survive after a zombie apocalypse in this fiction/comic hybrid. One day zombies wandered into Jack's small town and began taking over. They were shortly followed by monsters of whom Jack has interesting names for and is become adept at battling. Day to day survival is tough, between finding food, fighting monsters, and the loneliness Jack feels in his tree house home is nearly as hard to take as basic survival. Finally, after fixing his walkie-talkie, Jack reconnects with his science-nerd best friend Quint. Quint also moves into the tree house and helps Jack to soup it up with technological advances. Next to the team is Rover, a lovable, yet gigantic dog/beast. Jack and Quint power-up a monster truck perfect for post-apocalyptic survival and name it Big Mama. It is while cruising around in Big Mama that the boys encounter class bully, Dirk Savage. After teaming up to battle a flying monster, Dirk joins the team. One day, while cruising past their former middle school, the boys encounter Jack's crush: June Del Toro. It is Jack's dream to rescue June and now is his chance. After outrunning a Zombie Ball our heroes finally get to June, only to discover that she doesn't need rescuing. June is doing just fine on her own, but she is also lonely. June agrees to team-up with Jack and company and move into the tree house, only now they must get past Jack's nemesis, super-monster Blarg, in order to escape the school and return to the tree house to safety.

Apocalyptic fiction has been all the rage in teen literature for several years now and this trend has filtered down to middle readers. Brallier packages this genre for the Wimpy Kid set in this fiction/comic hybrid, brimming with laughs, fighting, and potty humor. Brallier perfectly captures the voice of a hip young tween and Jack's first person narrative is both believable and highly entertaining. This book reads quickly with action and cartoons on every page. Brallier has extensive experience writing for the Cartoon Network and that serves him well in producing quickly paced and humorous stories that kids will enjoy. Holgate, a seasoned cartoonist, contributes fully realized and entertaining illustrations that assist in propelling the plot. Zombies are hot right now (I had a four year old in story time who claims to watch The Walking Dead) and then throwing crazy scary monsters on top of this will be impossible for young readers to resist. The cast is diverse and including a fierce female character makes the book accessible to girls as well as boys, who will be the natural first audience. What kids hasn't fantasized about living in a souped-up tree house with no parents? The end of the world has never been cooler. Are these four tweens really the last kids on earth? This remains to be seen. They do appear to be the last kids in their small town. Maybe the answer will be revealed in the sequel: The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade, due for release September, 2016.

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