Paranormal is the big thing in Young Adult fiction these days, although steampunk seems to be looming on the horizon, threatening to become the hot new trend. Less paranormal fiction has been written for the middle grades, however, perhaps because a YA novel, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, inspired the recent wave of books with supernatural themes. A few middle grade titles do come to mind: Ellen Potter's Olivia Kidney and the Exit Academy and Jennifer Allison's Gilda Joyce, Psychic Detective plus sequels focus on ghosts, while A Taste for Red by Lewis Harris gives the vampire concept a new twist.
I was very happy to discover Jane Lyons's book, 100% Wolf, not only because it's a werewolf book for middle grades, but because it has the most clever premise I've come across in a long while. Oh, and it's funny!
Freddy Lupin is growing up in a proud werewolf clan in an old castle. On the one hand, his guardian, Lord Hotspur, is constantly criticizing Freddy—he and his two children are downright Dahl-worthy, they're so awful. On the other hand, Freddy is almost one hundred and twenty-one months old (by the werewolves' moon reckoning), which is when he'll have his first transwolfation, something his envious cousins will never be able to do. They don't have the tell-tale tuft of hair growing in the center of their palms, so Freddy teases them about his wolfish expectations in retaliation for the hateful things they do to him. I should note that although Lord Hotspur is a Bad Man, he is not completely wrong about "that foolster Frederick"; young Freddy loves to play pranks on the pompous Grand Growler of the Hidden Moonlight Gathering of Werewolves.
Unfortunately, there's a little something extra in Freddy's bloodline, and on his big night, he turns into a poodle instead of a wolf! At least he's black, or he's black until his cousins manage to get him dyed and cut into a foofy pink creature. Then Freddy goes on the run, and he makes some forbidden friends with the town dogs. It's a good thing, too, because a werewolf hunter named Dr. Foxwell Cripp is closing in on Freddy's family, and Uncle Hotspur's treachery goes much farther than anyone has guessed.
This goofy romp of a book is a real relief after all those dour YA paranormals I've read, and it should be especially appealing to boys who are reluctant readers, assuming they have a sense of humor. There's such a lot of great tongue-in-cheek stuff going on here: for example, part of the book is spent inside a horrible dog pound that's more of a dog dungeon, where the Commander is aided by an evil wolfhound named Cerberus. (Think Hogan's Heroes and Prison Break for dogs.) The final scenes are so action-packed that they're a little hard to keep track of, but I think you won't care any more than I did. A happy blend of adventure and comedy make this the perfect read for second and third graders who think books are boring. Meet a pink poodle who's 100% Wolf!
Note: It looks like this one was previously published in the UK. Thank you, England, for sending us another fun book!