While wandering the exhibit floor of ALA, I happened to pick up a copy of David Lubar’s Hyde and Shriek. My first impression of the book was lukewarm. I thought the cover was interesting, but phrases such as “Kids can be such monsters…literally!” and “A monsterrific tale,” didn’t really do it for me. I later found out that “A monsterrific tale” is actually the series name; this was somehow less offensive to me. Maybe offensive isn’t the right word, but I digress. I realize that I am not the intended audience for this book.
I had been taking the train into/out of Chicago each morning/evening, but had been too tired to try reading. Then, Monday morning, I was feeling better, and decided to grab something light from my stack of books. Hyde and Shriek looked like it would fit the bill: short (and therefore light), intended for a young audience (wouldn’t hurt my brain), and by an author I’ve heard great things about. I actually started the book before I even left the house, having found myself awake earlier than I planned. I didn’t leave my house on time, and almost missed my train. As soon as I sat down on the train, I opened the book again. I nearly missed my transfer point. By the time I pulled in at McCormick Place, I had finished.
This re-imagining of the Jekyll and Hyde story is perfect for young readers. Miss Clevis is the elementary school science teacher. One morning, something goes wrong with Miss Clevis’s breakfast smoothie when she accidentally adds ingredients from an ongoing experiment. Soon, Miss Clevis finds that she isn’t quite herself anymore. Switching between a younger version of herself, one without any negative life experiences, and therefore still kind and optimistic, and a mean version of herself, a substitute teacher who enjoys traumatizing the people around her. Miss Clevis is not gone entirely, but unless she can find her way out, she could be lost for good.
I enjoyed the duality of the new personalities: one pure evil and one pure goodness. It provided a good vehicle for a discussion about how people are a mixture of both, and how giving in to one side gave it more power. In the end, the children in Miss Clevis’s class (including Dawn, a girl with such a sweet disposition, who struggles with being labeled “good” all the time) have to work together using the science they learned from Miss Clevis to bring her back. The book is marked as ages 8+ (according to Amazon), and I think it would make a great read-a-loud for younger kids.
Title: Hyde and Shriek
Series: A Monsterrific Tale #1
Author: David Lubar
Age level: 8+ (I could see reading this to my 4-year-old nieces.)
Times I put the book down: 2 (but only because I had to)
Setting: Contemporary, Washington Irving Elementary, somewhere in the US
Favorite Character: Dawn
Favorite Moment: The way the kids bring Miss Clevis back. I loved which science experiment led to their solution.