Villain School: Good Curses Evil, by Stephanie S. Sanders (Bloomsbury, 2011, 240 pages)
Even fairy tale villains sometimes end up with children...and, naturally, expect their children to follow in their villainous footsteps. But some kids struggle to find their inner evil...and those chidren find themselves sent to the School for Wayward Villains. Young Rune Drexler hasn't exactly been good, but since his dad is the headmaster, he's a Wayward Villain student like everyone else, slowly working his way up in the ranks of evildoing, with many stops in detention.
But now his chance to show himself true villain has come! He's been assigned an Evil Plot! In one week, Rune and his friends, Big Bad Wolf Jr., and Countess Jezebel Dracula must find a henchman, steal a baby, kidnap a princess, and overthrow a kingdom.
Rather a lot to accomplish...especially when a rival gang of students is on a Plot of their own. Only one set of students will succeed, but things miraculously start falling into place for Rune and his companions. There's just one problem--far from hatching schemes of great evilness, Rune and co. are starting to look more and more like heroes!
The Quest occupies the bulk of the book, and proceeds nicely in entertaining fashion--encounters, dangers, rescues, and the like. Nothing surprising for the experienced reader, but an amusing and exiting quest experience, none the less, that should engross the young (and, even though I'm old and jaded and cynical, I rather enjoyed it myself!). Although the main character is a boy, there are two strong girl characters--one of whom, the princess, ends up having to rescue her would-be kidnappers.
I'd especially recommend this to the the eight or nine year old who's developing an appreciation for poking fun at established literary conventions--the sort that wants to be in the joke. It's fun to see old fairy tales friends, and plot elements, from a new perspective.
If you children have been reading the Sisters Grimm series, they are probably beyond this one. It's more similar in feel to Vivian French's Tales from the Five Kingdom series; fans of those books should enjoy this one too.
[I have left this around for my own eight year old to pick up. I think he will like it lots. He's read the description on the back of it a number of times already...and says he finds it funny....so why won't he just stop reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid et seq. for the umpteenth time and sit down and read this one for crying out loud???? Sometimes my children make me want to bang my head against the wall.]
Disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher