Friday, October 23, 2009

The Monster's Ring - a suspenseful fantasy perfect for reluctant readers (ages 7 - 10)

Halloween is just about the perfect holiday for kids.  Costumes, parades, and candy - what more can you want?  One of my favorite books at this time of year is The Monster's Ring, by Bruce Coville.  This suspenseful fantasy will grab reluctant readers, making them laugh out loud along the way.
The Monster's Ring
by Bruce Coville
CA: Harcourt, 2002
audiobook: Full Cast Audio
ages 7 - 10
Russell Crannaker is going to have a great Halloween this year.  He's going to be Frankenstein, staggering around with his eyes rolled back in his head.  But there's a problem: Eddie, the school bully, continually pokes Russell, punches him, calls him names.  And now Eddie's after him again.  So what does Russell do?  Run, like any kid with the good sense to save himself.  Russell finds himself alone, standing in front of a strange looking shop: Elives' Magic Supplies.  The ancient old man behind the counter hands Russell a small box, across the top of which is written "The Monster's Ring".  Inside, the note reads:
Twist it once, you’re horned and haired;
Twist it twice and fangs are bared;
Twist it thrice? No one has dared!
As Russell discovers, using magic is a tricky thing.  This ring can indeed turn him into a monster - a real life monster with fur and horns and a deep, raspy voice.  And as a monster, he can certainly get revenge on Eddie.  But is revenge really that sweet?  And can Russell really control the monster he's become?

Kids love this book for its fast pace, humor and suspense.  It has great dialogue and builds suspense as Russell becomes a bigger and more grotesque monster each time he turns the ring.  Power is addictive, as he finds out.  I love this book for all those reasons, but also because it has so many layers to it.  It brings up real issues kids think about: do bullies have real friends that will help them out?  What would you do if you saw someone being bullied?  How do you get your parents to listen to you, really stop and listen?

I first listened to this book as an audiobook from my library, and it was fantastic.  The author, Bruce Coville, narrates as a full cast peforms the different roles. Booklist reviews the audio production, saying, "Coville's smooth connecting narration keeps hold of the brisk action as Russell's squeaky voice morphs into growling grunts, and his dilemma deepens. Listeners will laugh out loud at the zaniness." Want to listen to some clips? Try it out at the Full Cast Audio site and you'll see how fun it is!

The review copy came from my public library. This is widely available in libraries as print or audiobook.

Take a look inside: read the first three chapters on Google Books.

This books is available online at Amazon. If you make a purchase by clicking through to Amazon, Great Kid Books receives a small percentage, which will be used to buy more books to review. Check out another book in the same series: Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher.

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