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BOOK REVIEWS, Fantasy, Middle Grade Readers, Mystery/Adventure

JANITORS by Tyler Whitesides

Janitors was an unexpected find for me while perusing shelves at the library.  The main character is 12-year-old Spencer Zumbro.  He attends Welcher Elementary School.  By unknowingly using a particularly powerful soap with magical properties he begins to see hybrid monster creatures all over the school.  Spencer, however, is apparently the only one who can see them. This creates both embarrassing and frustrating situations for him.

Spencer, after convincing his classmate Daisy that he is telling the truth, is approached by Garth Hadley, representative from the Bureau of Educational Maintenance, who asks Spencer to help them apprehend the school’s janitor, John Campbell.  Hadley reveals that “John Campbell” is not even the man’s real name and he has apparently stolen some important magical tools from the government agency.

With genuine desire to help repossess these tools for the BEM, Spencer and Daisy embark on a mission of covert actions and destructive diversions involving the school’s Family Ice Cream Social.  Successful in their mission, Spencer and Daisy are also in a LOT of trouble with their parents and the Principal.  In lieu of suspension, Spencer and Daisy are sentenced to a week of detention…with the janitors.

It is at this point that Spencer discovers he has been tricked by the BEM and things are not as they seemed to be.  Is Hadley lying?  Oris John Campbell?  Now Spencer finds himself in the position of having to repair the damage he and Daisy have done in their misguided attempts to save the school from the Janitor.  The future of education itself is at stake.

This is a fun adventure story.  It has all kinds of magic instruments, warlocks, witches, mutant monsters who prey on the brain waves of children and a government conspiracy to boot.  Interspersed with all of these wonderfully fanciful elements are the real-life struggles of bullies, friendship and fitting in.  There are battles and chases and moments of personal insight about truth and friendship and trust.

This is an excellent independent reading selection especially for readers who enjoy magic-tinted adventures.


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