“Absurd,” “preposterous,” “slapstick.” Know any middle-grade readers who like their stories like that? Here are three new novels that fit the bill.
In Mr. and Mrs. Bunny — Detectives Extraordinaire!, Madeline, in the manner of many previous Polly Horvath heroines, has lost her parents. It turns out that they have been kidnapped, and capable Madeline engages the services of a couple of detectives. So much for sensible; bring on the absurd. The kidnappers are foxes; the detectives are rabbits; lovers of the zany will revel in this laugh-out-loud funny and highly original romp, illustrated with aplomb by Sophie Blackall. (9–12 years)
Adam Rex’s Cold Cereal takes place in the town of Goodborough, home to the Goodco cereal company, where new kid Scott is seeing things. Specifically, a rabbit-headed man, a unicat, and a leprechaun. When Scott discovers that he and his only friends, brainy twins Erno and Emily, are subjects in a dastardly Goodco experiment, the three set out to right some wrongs. Built on a happily preposterous edifice of a plot, this wacky adventure is consistently entertaining. (9–12 years)
In Andrew Norriss’s I Don’t Believe It, Archie!, ordinary kid Archie always seems to be in the middle of crazy happenings. For instance, his mother sends him out to mail a letter, but on the way he sees a piano racing down the street, then saves two people from being buried alive in gravel. Of course, he never mails the letter. Archie’s mother is unaware that anything exciting has ever happened; she is only exasperated that he hasn’t completed the errands. Each chapter ends with her frustrated “Honestly! I don’t believe it, Archie!” Hannah Shaw’s humorous black-and-white spot illustrations help move the action along in this benign slapstick comedy. (8–11 years)