Demon Dentist, by David Walliams, HarperCollins, 272 pages, $19.99
Fear of the dentist has never been so well-founded, nor so delightful to read about. When a reedy, terrifying new dentist comes to his town to set up practice dishing out sweets and acrid, stone-dissolving toothpaste, Alfie, our young hero, is the first to be suspicious. Unfortunately, the desperate state of his mouth makes him the most in need of a dentist’s care. Walliams is an absolute whiz; his books are hilarious, clever, warm and wildly imaginative while always grounded in real life problems. Alfie lives at home with his loving, ailing father and has to take care of him in their tiny rundown apartment. He also has the involvement of an unwelcome social worker to shirk, and a new friend who is most certainly not his girlfriend. Comparisons with Roald Dahl are easy to make, but the Walliams’ books have a different heart. A big, fun, sloppy, juicy, teeth-meltingly good heart.
The Creature Department, by Robert Paul Weston, Razorbill, 352 pages, $18
Gorgeously gruesome and fantastically foul, The Creature Department is a little gold mine of weird ideas and lots of kicks. Take two unhappy, bored 12-year-olds, give them a mysterious factory that produces incredible gadgets called DENKi-3000, fill it with bizarre beings, and poof! Elliot von Doppler is very bored in his hometown of Bickleburg, and Leslie Fang is a serious young lady with a mother who is struck with wanderlust frequently. The two become an unlikely pair after inventing the very same model rocket ship for the science fair. Elliot and Leslie must invent an entirely new, big-selling gadget to save DENKi-3000 before a nasty corporation takes over. Readers who like their humour a touch on the gross side will be duly rewarded, as will those who appreciate stories about odd kids and their odder companions. Oh, and the book glows in the dark.
Not Your Ordinary Wolf Girl, by Emily Pohl-Weary, Razorbill Canada, 304 pages, $18.99
Readers plaintive about a lack of strong female heroines in YA paranormal romance: Pick up this book. It is leading the pack. Sam Lee is an 18-year-old bass-playing rock star living in New York, a vegetarian, has a crush on a comic-book artist and prefers to be solitary. When she is attacked by what she thinks is an enormous wild dog one evening, Sam finds her food preferences changing as she lusts for meat and blood. Confronted with with a whole new round of bodily changes, Sam has to cope with the emergence of fur, claws and paws. More werewolves turn up in town, and they aren’t all friendly. Suddenly Sam has new enemies, a possible new love interest, and a host of other lupine concerns. Told in first person, Sam’s conversation with the reader is frank and a bit sharp, though vulnerable and readable throughout the book. A deeply refreshing read.