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The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless    by Ahmet Zappa Amazon.com order for
Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless
by Ahmet Zappa
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, CD
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Eleven-year old Minerva McFearless is a monsterminator. But the monsters are now fighting back, vengefully! Minerva begins telling her family's story from inside a large bird cage, where she, her nine-year old brother Maxwell, and their dad are captives of the Snargleflougasaurus. The kidnap was set up by 'king of evil' Zarmaglorg in the demonic depths of Castle Doominstinkinfart. The evil monster wants two things besides revenge: a specific book, and the Enotslived Diamond. Minerva tells her story, claiming the following talents: she can read and write in the Monstrosity language, perform a one-handed cartwheel, and is smart, especially at geography. Minerva considers her brother Max an annoying brat for varied reasons - and he dreams of becoming captain of a pirate ship - but she loves him for better or worse.

This is how the McFearless adventure comes about: while Dad is out getting a cake, Minerva and Max read in their deceased mother's favorite room, a library stuffed with books from floor to ceiling. Max comes across a secret passageway, and the duo discover that they are monsterminators. They 'collide literally with a table full of terrifying things ... canisters filled with a glowing green type of phosphorus ... sarcophagi filled with skeletons andů other rotting remains'. Armored with 'a living book', Ms. Monstranomicon (who loves to have her spine tickled), Minerva and Maxwell set out to rescue their father. Along the way they encounter many monstrosities. A sassy, bratty coyote named Mr. Devilstone (sporting a top hat, a cane, and an eye patch) appears to support Minerva and Max in their quest. They need to solve the mystery of the Bewilder Box, 'created for and used exclusively by monsters to keep their very most prized possessions safely hidden.'

Among the monsters described in the Monstranomicon are the Grumplemiser, the Krunkadillion, the Glorch, and the Swoggler. The latter are 'sickly white, caterpillar-like vampires ... their food source is the memories and emotions found inside the brains of their victims'. But, never fear, dear readers, as there are many defensive recipes in the same book, including Fool's Golden Fried Chicken Surprise Attack, Frozen Mustard Soup, Stinkfeet Talismans, and Mudworm Moonbiscuit. The latter requires '1 cauldron (or large mixing bowl), 1 pair of human hands, 3 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 cup of dirt, 5 tablespoons of salt, 11 teaspoons of orange juice, 1 cup of milk, 1 long tube sock, 7 hours (at least) of direct moonlight, and 1 timepiece for measuring time'. Directions for mixing and brewing said recipes are also provided.

In this monstrously bewitching debut book, Ahmet Zappa illustrates his monsters in fine-line sepia tone pencil figures. Sepia-tone photographs and sculptures were created by Clay Sparks, along with sepia-photographs of the main characters (the McFearless family) taken by Brian Bowen-Smith. Zappa's tale is adventuresome and certainly keeps the reader's attention. The ending is complex as well as puzzling.

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