Review: Beetle & the Hollowbones

I usually like my meals to be savory, complex and filled with that elusive umami taste that has a very narrow bandwidth in your mouth.  Hearty, satisfying, not too sweet, rich, but not overwhelming.  Yes, I’m Goldilocks.  It has to be just right. 

So, what does this have to do with books?  Well, when it comes to books released with an eye towards holidays, I find that authors rarely get the umami feel right–they are saccharine sweet, too scary, too silly or just too too.  Imagine my surprise when I read Beetle & the Hollowbones, written and illustrated by Aliza Lane and released just in time for Halloween.  It hits that umami spot just right.

A graphic novel (not just for kids folks), Beetle tells the story of twelve-year-old goblin witch “Beetle” who is home-schooled by her grandmother and has a ghost, trapped in the local mall, for a friend.  Everything is going swimmingly (if not a little predictable), until her former best friend “Kat” comes back to town, the mall is set to be demolished and old rivalries between Beetle’s Grandmother and Kat’s Aunt are set ablaze.  Through it all, the fate of the mall (and Beetle’s ghost friend), and the soul of the town are at stake!

At the center of the novel is the relationship between Beetle and Kat, caught in a will-they or won’t-they scenario.  These are funny, assertive, girls who, like most kids their age, engage their feelings before their minds–resulting in avoidable, but true-to-life situations.  Although their antics are confined to the world of magical realism, kids (and adults) will have no problem empathizing with them and wishing them to a happy conclusion.

The novel is replete with inside, visual jokes and is engaging at every page turn.  The characters, particularly that of Blob Ghost, Beetle’s ghost friend, are endearing and well-developed.  Look for Blob Ghost to spin-off into its own novel (I have no insider knowledge of that, but it would certainly be a good idea).  For a character that is an amorphous blob and can’t speak, it doesn’t seem to have a hard time stealing the show.

Will they or won’t they? Will Blog Ghost be saved? Will the mall?  Who’s the more powerful being: Grandmother or Aunt?  This is a spoiler free review; but, suffice it to say, Beetle and the Hollowbones is a satisfying umami treat, no trick, for Halloween or anytime of year.

Bettle & the Hollowbones
Aliza Layne
Simon & Schuster Kids

Beetle & the Hollowbones (Support an Independent Bookstore)
Beetle & the Hollowbones (Hardcover at Amazon)*

More books for this Age Group can be found here.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster for a Review Copy of this book. The views expressed herein are my own.

Please, leave comments! I love a HEALTHY exchange of ideas. After all, critical thinking is essential to life.

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