Galveston, Louise By the Grace of Todd. Illustrated by Patrick Faricy. 239 pgs. Razorbill, 2014. $18. Content: PG
Todd is starting middle school, and though he was hoping for a new beginning, the new school year starts out depressingly the same. He is still be tormented by a bully. Only this time, the bully is bigger and meaner than the one from his old elementary school, with lackeys. When Todd is assigned to work with this classmate for the science fair, he thinks he has been given a chance to turn things around, even if that means he must turn his back on his best friend and on the little people he has discovered colonizing his dirty soccer sock. Yes, that's right. His pure adolescent grossness has spawned a whole new civilization who feast on his dead skin cells, drink his sweat, and worship him as a god.
I imagine kids might enjoy reading about how pure filth generates a community of ant-sized people, but I had difficulty reading through it. I found the characters unlikable, and the premise absurd and illogical. For example, Todd and his neighbor can't see the little people, the Toddlians, at first without a microscope, but then they are described as being as big as ants. They also evolve from a civilization just discovering fire to learning English (as well as Spanish) practically overnight, but then don't keep developing at such an astounding rate. Additionally, Todd and his family all talk rudely to each other. Baby sister even rattles off invectives in her goo-goo-ga-ga babble (which for some reason the Toddlians can understand). The plot elements that describe how Todd tries to ingratiate himself with the bullying group, and then how he finally learns his lesson and sets things right, are largely cliched. Even with all references to Todd as the God of the Toddlians aside, I found this story very irreverent and without meritorious qualities, except for the fact that middle readers might eat it up!
EL, MS - OPTIONAL. Reviewed by P.K. Foster, teacher-librarian