written by Tyler Whitesides, illustrations by Brandon Dorman
Shadow Mountain, 2011
Grades 3 and up
Reviewed from purchased copy.
BLURB: Have you ever fallen
asleep during math class? Are you easily distracted while listening to
your English teacher? Do you find yourself completely uninterested in
geography? Well, it may not be your fault. The janitors at Welcher
Elementary know a secret, and it s draining all the smarts out of the
kids. Twelveyear- old Spencer Zumbro, with the help of his classmate
Daisy Gullible Gates, must fight with and against a secret, janitorial
society that wields wizard-like powers. Who can Spencer and Daisy
trust and how will they protect their school and possibly the world?
Maybe it's because I work in a school that I enjoyed this so much, janitors with special tools, critters that suck brain power from students, what great concepts. I know the janitor at my school is a valuable ally and I think it's a great idea making them into fighters of not only mess and dirt, but loss of learning as well. In the author description on the back of the book it mentions that the author (Tyler Whitesides) worked as a janitor at a middle school for a time. It shows in the details about the different tools janitors use to do their jobs.
I enjoyed the main characters as well, Spencer and Daisy are ordinary kids called upon to do extraordinary things. I liked the fact that both Spencer and Daisy have their strengths and their weaknesses, and also how their strengths sometimes were their weaknesses. Spencer is a bit OCD when it comes to cleanliness and this strength/weakness is what gets him involved with the janitors and the Toxites (invisible critters that run around the school sucking up children's brain waves) in the first place. But once Spencer realizes what's at stake he faces his weaknesses for the betterment of all, even when doing to right thing comes at a heavy price. Daisy is very trusting and believing, unfortunately, people use this against her, through the story Daisy starts to see that not everything she is told can be trusted. Both characters grow in ways that are very believable.
The story moves at a brisk pace allowing the reader to move swiftly through its pages. From Spencer's struggles with a bully to his run ins with various Toxites and his confrontations with his mother, the janitors, and other adults, the plot gives us much to think about and discuss as well as enjoy. I appreciated the fact that while some of the problems introduced in the book were resolved, it's not a happily ever after story. Serious problems remain to be solved, while still giving the reader some closure. All too many series these days leave the reader hanging at the end of each book, which while acceptable, can be irritating at times. While Whitesides clearly leaves the ending open for future books, there is a certain amount of closure.
I recommend this book to those who enjoy a good adventure with a dash of magic and a good dose of imagination thrown in.