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Middle Grade; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)

Twelve-year-old Joshua Tate's evening of parent-free fun morphs into a night of monster mayhem when an unfinished chore becomes... the Venus Child Trap. Suddenly in a house alive with twisting vines in search of prey, Josh and his friends must unravel the mystery of this killer plant before it swallows them whole and takes over their town. Will Josh and his friends triumph over the Venus Child Trap, or will they learn just how poisonous procrastination can be?
Joshua Tate, the in-over-his-head hero of this fun and witty middle-grade reader, has reached that landmark moment of growing up that every kid waits for—an entire night without parental supervision. His best friends, Derrick and Asia, are just waiting for the all-clear to join him, but first, Joshua's mom needs to run through a few rules and chores. Most important? The care and feeding of her prize plant, the Lunabelle: trim Lunabelle's leaves before the sun goes down, feed her a dinner of beetles and, whatever you do, keep it out of the moonlight. But Josh is only half listening, as it's going to be the night of a lifetime and what's the big deal about taking care of a dumb plant?

As our heroes choose fun over duty, the Lunabelle kicks into high gear and the scariest night of their lives ensues. DeGuise, kicking off his promising Ghoul School series, keeps the story on the fun side of scary as the Lunabelle—captured in fantastic, story-enhancing illustrations from Javier Espila—begins to grow before their very eyes, soon filling the house, chasing them, in search of the lost seeds Josh's mom and dad have collected to start new plants. The adventure is fast-paced and witty, and kids will see themselves in Josh and his friends, kids who are in that in-between time of still being young enough to play together, but edging into being old enough to imagine how wonderful a kiss from that special person might be.

Josh's fears are two-fold, stopping the angry Lunabelle and figuring out how he's going to explain all this to his parents, who will be home very, very soon. Nothing in DeGuise’s storytelling is superfluous, as the tension builds to a winning resolution. For all Lunabelle’s bite, Venus Child Trap is a charmer, rich in humor, thoughtful in its relationships between family and friends, and touching in its handling of bravery and loyalty, consequences and actions. This book is a delight.

Takeaway: Spooky, hilarious story of kids home alone and a plant run amok.

Comparable Titles: Josh Berk & Saundra Mitchell’s Camp Murderface, Joe McGee’s The Haunted Mustache.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A