A F Harold (text), Joe Todd-Stanton (Illustrator), Greta Zargo and the Amoeba Monsters from the Middle of the Earth, Bloomsbury Publishing, June 2018, 256 pp., $12,99 (pbk), ISBN 9781408881774
Greta Zargo is back in her second mystery-adventure where once again the fate of the Earth rests on her shoulders. Not that she’s aware of that responsibility, she is far too preoccupied by the disappearance of her Aunt Tabitha, who has vanished along with the keys to the Hester Sometimes conference centre, thereby ruining the Twelfth Annual Festival of New Stuff (TAFoNS for short). But while eleven-year-old Greta is preoccupied with finding her aunt, an army of see-through, indestructible monsters is wobbling into her garden from the depths of the Earth and feeding on her neighbours.
There are many things about this book that make it stand out. The Sci-Fi/Mystery blend, the parallel stories with a combined but unrelated resolution and Greta herself. She’s not loveable, cute, or funny — I’m not even sure she’s likeable, but there is something about Greta that compels you to keep turning the pages to find out just how she’s going to manage.
Greta’s quiet, determined strength coupled with the books whimsy and humour make the story entertaining and unique. They way author A.F. Harrold has included both subtle humour and blatant gags also makes this quite a sophisticated book for its target audience, but one that is still easy to read and enjoy. I particularly admired the way he set up expected scenarios and then solved them in unexpected ways that were both clever yet simple.
Once again Joe Todd-Stanton engaging illustrations enhance the story and I love the way they are generously peppered throughout the book. The sideways footnotes are filled with quirky tidbits and amusing additions and add to the fun and whimsy of the book.
This book would suit older middle-grade readers nine years and over, particularly those who like science fiction and mysteries and it’s a book that both girls and boys will enjoy. Kids who enjoyed Escape from Mr Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein or The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart will probably like this book too.
Unique, quirky characters, fantastical creatures and surprising (and questionable!!) inventions, all add up to make Greta Zargo and the Amoeba Monsters from the Middle of the Earth a unique and engaging story for middle-grade readers.
Reviewed by Renee Mihulka