Seleste and The Boy review: Professor Gargoyle (Lovecraft Middle School #1) by Charles Gilman

Strange things are happening at Lovecraft Middle School. Rats are leaping from lockers. Students are disappearing.  The school library is a labyrinth of secret corridors. And the science teacher is acting very peculiar – in fact, he just might be a monster-in-disguise.  Twelve-year-old Robert Arthur knew that seventh grade was going to be weird, but this is ridiculous!

Professor Gargoyle (Volume I in the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School series) is full of bizarre beasts, strange mysteries, and nonstop adventure.  It’s perfect for readers ages 10 and up. Best of all, the cover features a state-of-the-art “morphing” photo portrait – so you can personally witness the professor transforming into a monster.  You won’t believe your eyes!

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (September 25, 2012)
  • Price:$13.99
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594745919
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594745911
  • Buy at Amazon

Seleste here. For those of you who don’t remember, my son helped me review a middle grade novel a while back. When Nat got the email regarding this book and asked if any of our kids wanted to do it, The Boy jumped at it. So, without further ado, I give you my son’s review…

There’s a lot of creativity in this, a lot of stuff that would be great for kids because it has stuff like labyrinths, unreal attics, two-headed rats, monsters. Clearly, a lot of imagination was put into it. The actual story is quite amazing. One of the best parts is how the author made the demons seem like they could be real.

And that was the end of his review. He didn’t have a lot more to say about it than that. Which drove me to read the book after he finished. My review is a little less enthusiastic (and filled with comparisons to other middle grade and chapter book series).

We’ll start with the physical book itself. Like the 39 Clues and Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, these are hardcover. Now the covers are really cool (they are lenticular and shift from a normal picture of the title character to one of them in their evil form) and the paper is very nice and thick. There are some fabulous illustrations throughout. (A warning for arachnophobes, however, there is a drawing of a huge spider. The Boy was nice enough to cover it with a post-it for me.) Fantastically put together books that will hold up for years, but I read this to help The Boy write his review and it seems designed story-wise more like those series that can go on forever, ala The Magic Treehouse. Since I think the books skew toward more of a young-middle middle grade, I have a tough time with the idea of shelling out the cover price for these books when my kid will outgrow them in just a couple years (or sooner).

The story was okay, and I’m sure for the target audience, it would fall under fun, exciting and all that. The problem is, it felt like someone said “Hey, Rick Riordan’s doing really well with the mythology stuff. We need a book like that.” Then someone threw in a little Harry Potter (with the new, magical school) and some Magic Tree House, took the whole thing, shook it up, and this is what came out. Problem is, with the exception of Magic Tree House (which I’m not a huge fan of), Lovecraft Middle School falls short of all those other series.

None of the characters was really stand-out, and asking my son about this months later (because we suck and never finished the review) he couldn’t remember much about it at all. Other than Professor Gargoyle himself, who is on the cover and currently staring at me, I can’t even recall any of the characters names.

In short, it’s not a bad book by any stretch, but it’s not a great book either. When a publisher is asking parents to shell out $13.95 for a middle grade book, I expect it to be one that my kids will love until it falls apart. Lovecraft Middle School, sadly, just doesn’t make the grade.

As far as rating, I left that to The Boy, and he said…

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