Sure to entertain and delight readers with its outlandish antics—an exploding microwave! A stolen TV that causes a traffic jam! Grandmas in jail! A stolen raft at the Grand Canyon!—The Harpers’ Holiday Horror feels like a younger cousin to snarky yet heartfelt entertainments like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Packed with bumptious incidents and characters, this lively seasonal follow-up at times can feel bogged down or lacking narrative momentum, as it affords point-of-view passages to a host of Harpers and others, even if only for one sentence, including the dog, amusingly named Chicken. The POVs from strangers seem to underscore how odd and annoying the Harpers and their mischief can be, but many of these characters (including some Harpers) lack a distinct and unique voice.
The most compelling relationship in the book is between Aaliyah and Matthew, who feel like real, if exaggerated, siblings—constantly annoyed with each other and getting into arguments, but ultimately have each other’s backs at the end of the day. Ultimately an ode to the bonds of family, no matter how much they cost or annoy you, Southworth’s raucous story is a unique addition to the mischievous kids' tradition.
Takeaway: The holiday shenanigans of this family of mischief makers is sure to delight young readers.
Great for fans of: Caleb Zane Huett’s Top Elf, Kim Baker’s Pickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A