Doubleshot Reviews is happy to have Emily Smith, an elementary school teacher, mother and friend as a guest reviewer today. I called upon Emily’s expertise when I was asked to review a horror book titled Hand Puppet Horror, which is geared toward middle school children. Yes, I was a teacher for many years, but that was quite a while ago and I taught Kindergarten, so I asked Mrs. Smith to help me out.
So without further ado, here is her review of Benny Alano’s Hand Puppet Horror. Many thanks to you, Emily!
Hand Puppet Horror is a story of a 4th grade boy named Jay who makes a hand puppet during arts & crafts time at his school. Somehow, the hand puppet comes to life and it is clear right away, that he is not a friendly puppet! Jay immediately regrets making his puppet “Yeti Booger” with such sharp teeth and other appendages. The story chronicles Jay and his two closest friends, Sammy and Becky as they learn to deal with the evil puppet and his antics. Towards the end of the book, we come to learn that Fred (another classmate) is a warlock who has put a curse on the hand puppet in an attempt to get back at Jay for a brief scare Jay had given him early on in the story.
The concept of the cursed puppet is a good one that I think your average 3rd or 4th grader would find interesting. When it was presented to me, I was told I would be reviewing a book geared towards middle school students and while entertaining, the complexity of the story is far too juvenile for that age group. There were several great vocabulary words (again, appropriate for a 3rd or 4th grade level) which could be brought up in discussion groups in the classroom and added to students’ personal vocabulary books. The illustrations scattered throughout the chapters were wonderful and brought an otherwise patchwork story together.
Overall, the structure of the story seemed scattered. It definitely built to a climax but, I feel the actions leading up to and down from that climax were far too rushed and the beginning of the story was somewhat uneventful. There is a brief (half page) romantic encounter between Becky and Jay at the very end of the book that was not well placed or built up to. Sadly, the character development in the story didn’t make you like or dislike any of the main players. I felt I was TOLD outright, how to feel about them but, didn’t let me form my own opinion about each character. Very few 4th grade students that I have personally worked with would find Jay’s character realistic. The story seemed to try too hard to paint a picture of a child’s life. Jay’s catchphrase is “Holy Knickerbockers” which is fairly appropriate and accurate but, there is a dog in the story named “Stupid” which in my class and most Elementary classrooms (in the three different states I’ve worked in) is akin to a curse word. My students would definitely make sure I knew that word was in the story and then later use it as a defense when they decided to say it in school.
Finally, I had a really hard time with this book as a teacher, as there were at least half a dozen grammatical/spelling errors. I make it a point to provide my students with exemplary models of writing so, when they go to write their own stories they pay attention to such details as grammar, spelling and structure. I don’t think I could use this book in that way in my classroom.
In summation, while the concept and illustrations of Hand Puppet Horror were spot on and appropriate for a 3rd or 4th grade reader, the lack of character development, unrealistic depiction of the life of a young boy and multiple grammatical errors make this a story that will most likely not make it in my classroom library.
Pick up your copy of Hand Puppet Horror at Amazon for Kindle or paperback by clicking the cover image above. Click (HERE) for a Barnes & Noble paperback.
Espresso rating: Single