Kid Vs. Squid
by Greg van Eekhout
Cover Artist: Jim Madsen
Review by Cathy Green
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781599904894
Date: 11 May 2010 List Price $16.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Greg Van Eekhout, author of Norse Code, an excellent fantasy novel for adults, has written a really fun “what I did on my summer vacation” fantasy novel for tweens. In Kid Vs. Squid, Thatcher Hill is not at all happy about how crummy his summer vacation is turning out. He was supposed to go to various Asian countries such as Singapore with his parents as part of their business trip to visit various plastics factories, but one of his classmates caught Hanta virus or some similar rodent born illness and since he was exposed, none of the countries to which his parents are traveling will admit him. So while they're engaged in exotic travel, he's stuck with his great-uncle Griswald in Los Huesos, CA, a shabby seaside town with a very drab boardwalk and without a proper beach, just a rocky shore.
Thatcher is not thrilled about spending his days dusting the shrunken heads and other objects in his uncle's museum of curiosities and eating spray cheese and crackers. Soon, however, things get more exciting as he meets Trudy McGee, a local girl who wants to be an FBI agent when she grows up, and another girl breaks into the museum one night and steals the "what-is-it? (do not open)".
Thatcher and Trudy track the girl, Shoal, to a cave. In the struggle for the "what is it", it accidentally opens and Thatcher and Trudy fall under the curse of the Sea Witch. They learn that Shoal is a Princess of the lost city of Atlantis and that all the Atlantians are cursed by Skalla the Sea Witch, doomed to sleep as flotsam in the sea from the end of summer until the next summer and doomed to work the boardwalk during the summer season. There are some funny bits where Thatcher an Trudy are trying desperately to avoid the pull of the curse but cannot help developing an unhealthy interest in running a taffy stand. There are also some very tragic elements to the story, such as the fate of Shoal's mother.
In order to avoid becoming flotsam doomed to spending the majority of the year asleep and drifting at sea and summers working crappy jobs on the boardwalk, Thatcher and Trudy must fight the Skalla and her minions and figure out how to break the curse. This is complicated by their discovery that the Skalla's minions were all once regular townsfolk turned unwillingly into sea creatures, which seriously hampers Thatcher and Trudy's ability to fight back. There is a large scale battle between the Atlantians and Skalla's minions which includes the kid vs. squid showdown that the book's title promises.
Van Eekhout has created a fun, snarky hero in Thatcher Hill. Both boys and girls should enjoy the book. While the target audience is middle school age kids, Thatcher and his smart mouth will also appeal to teens and adults. There is nothing in book that would make it inappropriate to be read to children younger than the target audience, although some very young children might find what happened to Shoal's mother to be upsetting.
Kid Vs. Squid would make a great Hanukah or Christmas present for tween readers. Recommended.