I had the privilege of reading “Dead Boy” via NetGalley‘s website. Though its publish date is September 29, 2015, this was a book I wanted to read right away. The cover, the title, and the description spoke to the Neil Gaiman fan in me. In fact, fans of Neil Gaiman’s writing would likely enjoy this dark and humorous story.
I tried to read through my teacher lens as well as my student lens. I knew right away that kids would love this book when I read about the maggots crawling out of Crow’s ears and nose. (Oh yes, this book has some gross-out material!) If the maggots don’t get them hooked, surely they’ll want to read to find out how Crow stays “alive” without a beating heart! This is a book that will probably spend more time in students’ hands than on the shelf.
As a teacher, I appreciated the themes of friendship, selflessness, and self-discovery. There were many places where I saw opportunities to spark discussions with students. “Dead Boy” might even make for a good read-aloud, or at least a top choice for student book clubs. I also appreciated how Laurel Gale included a lot of references science and other content areas that would get kids wondering and maybe even doing some investigating on the side. Your kids may start asking questions about dinosaurs, Chinese dynasties, and mythical creatures. (“What the heck is a Meera?”)
Crow lives a tough life. (Can you still say that if the person isn’t alive?) Crow doesn’t know much around the mysterious reason for his “life” after death. He knows that his parents made a special wish, but that’s about it. Trapped in a body that is rotting, stinky, and constantly falling apart, there’s not much for Crow to do. He is homeschooled by his mom. He spends most of his days inside because the extreme heat would speed up his decay and strengthen the stench. He watches other children from his window do all the things he used to do.
But one day, a knock on the door provides Crow with a new opportunity-a friend. Melody has just moved in next door, and although Crow’s mom won’t let her in, that doesn’t stop them from becoming fast friends. Crow and Melody share secrets, go on adventures, and discuss the magic in the world around them. The two get themselves in the middle of a perilous expedition that forces them to deal with mythical creatures, complete nearly impossible tasks, and even confront mean middle-schoolers.
“Dead Boy”, Laurel Gale’s first novel, is dark, funny, and gross. Fans of Neil Gaiman would likely enjoy this story. The book is short (150 pages) and a quick read, which will make it a classroom favorite. The parts about maggots crawling out of Crow’s ears and nose will make for great lunchroom conversation. Young readers will love the mystery and adventure that keep this story moving along. This would be a good-fit book for students in 4th-6th grade.