Monday, October 31, 2022

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday and a Duo review of Leo's Map of Monsters: The Frightmare and The Shrieking Serpent by Kris Humphrey, illustrations by Pete Williamson

Leo's Map of Monsters: The Frightmare 
by Kris Humphrey, illustrations by Pete Williamson
Format:  E-book
Publisher:  Kane Miller Publishing 
Number of pages:  160
Published:  In the US via Kane Miller 2022
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review  

Opening Line: "It was early evening and the walls of my bedroom were striped with shadows." 

In the third book of Leo's Map of Monsters series, Leo's village is set to celebrate their yearly Spring festival, a night of festivities filled with food, games, dancing and singing.  Leo is especially excited because Henrik gave him the night off so he could attend with his best friend Jacob.  That is until the village chief, Gilda arrives and tells him he is desperately needed once again to save their village from an encroaching monster.  Swiftly Leo tells a little white lie to Jacob and heads out for the Guardians cabin in the woods, unbeknown to him he is being followed.  Leo is given his next assignment to capture the Grass Gulper, who is making its way toward their village.  Unfortunately, he will only have one chance to capture it, as he only has one Shrinking Stone left, so he will need to make sure that his shot counts.  Assisting Leo once again is Starla, a leatherwing who has the unique ability of communicating her thoughts directly into Leo's head.  And as a new surprise, Leo discovers that he was followed by none other than Jacob, who is injured when the Grass Gulper attacks.   Seeing this as an opportunity to work with his friend hunting monsters, Leo hopes that Henrik will train Jacob too, but can they trust him with this secret?  Or must he resort to taking a hair from the legendary Frightmare's tail in order to take away Jacob's memories of being in the forest for good?  

Seeing this as his only option, Leo agrees to hunt down the Frightmare, but getting a hair from the Frightmare's tail is more difficult than you would think.  They can disappear at will, making it challenging to get a shot off in time.  They're also enveloped in blue flames and fog which makes it difficult to approach them.  They're aggressive and vehemently protective of their territory.  Plus, their mighty hoofbeats are frightening, especially when they come charging at you during an attack.  Hoping to escape just those attacks, Leo ventures into the ruins surrounding the Frightmare's domain only to find himself in a very dark space, which truthfully was unnerving.  Leo certainly had his hands full in this story.  I'd say this was his most dangerous mission yet and exemplifies just how brave Leo is.        

Leo's Map of Monsters: The Shrieking Serpent by Kris Humphrey, illustrations by Pete Williamson
Format:  E-book
Publisher:  Kane Miller Publishing 
Number of pages:  176
Published:  In the US via Kane Miller February 10th, 2022
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review  

Opening Line: "I lay in bed, staring at the wedge of daylight that had forced its way into my room."

Leo is up early to help out his mom, who injured her knee from a fall.  While making her tea, Leo finds out that she needs him to take the Grimwood family's account papers to their home, which Leo had hoped to avoid because their son, Carl has been such a bully to him.  But first, Leo needs to meet up with Henrik to get filled in on his next monster fighting assignment.  Sadly, Leo learns that he used up all of their magical stones, his only protection against the monster's attacks, and now will need to enter the Endless Mines in order to stock up and increase their reserve of magical stones.  This new task appears to be a daunting one, for the mines are housed within Mammoth Peak, in a pitch-dark labyrinth, filled with miles of tunnels crossed by underground rivers and lurking somewhere deep within the Peak is the legendary Shrieking Serpent.   Armed only with his map of monsters, one rusty lantern, a plan of the mines highlighting a route around the serpent, his skills from training, and one vile of Henrik's silvery flash powder Leo heads out through the forest.  Assisting him along the way is his trusty companion, Starla the leatherwing.  

At first everything seems to be going as planned, but then one moment of distraction lands Leo face to face with a Goretusk and in an attempt to avoid being gorged, he steps further into the sinking mud of the swamp.  Luckily, Leo has a history with this monster and is partially pulled out by his great tusks, where he faces a new danger when he encounters forest people, who after helping him get unstuck, take him to their camp.  The forest people do not trust Leo and defiantly don't believe that he is capable of surviving the Endless Mines.  Hoping to convince them of his ability, Leo describes how he is on a quest to retrieve the magical stones found within the mines of Mammoth Peak, despite Willow and Eve vouching for him, the forest people will not agree to allow him to pass.  After a daring rescue, Leo is set free and with Eve's help he begins on his task once again.  Eventually, Leo and Eve make it into the mines and do encounter the Shrieking Serpent, with a little trust and help from his friends, Leo is able to retrieve his magical stones and make his way back home. 

Both of these stories are super quick reads and would make for a nice Halloween read along.  The Frightmare and Shrieking Serpent are formidable foes and challenged Leo in new ways.  This also felt like a switch up from the repetitive theme of the first two books which had Leo going out on a mission to save his village and I'm happy that he had new obstacles to overcome.  Like Jacob following him and Leo needing to be saved from being tied up by the forest people.  Before I would've said that Leo used trial and error to get out of trouble, but this time around I believe the stories highlighted his training with the slingshot and his knowledge for using the right magical stone against the correct monster.  Overall, this is a fun series of books for elementary age kid, 7+ who likes stories involving fighting monsters.   I really enjoyed the black and white illustrations by Pete Williamson and how they showed the menacing side of these two new monsters.  Included at the back of each book are details about each of the monster's strength, size, intelligence etc. which I could see appealing to a Pokémon trading card enthusiast.           

**A huge thank you to Lynn Kelley from Kane Miller Publishing for the E-books of the first four books in the series. **    


  1. What great choices for Halloween! Just enough fright to make them fun reads. Thanks for sharing!

  2. These sound like very entertaining books for younger readers, and I like how the character seems to be growing through it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I've not had the opportunity to read any of the books in this series. The premise and main character have me pushing this up higher on my to read list. Thanks for posting your review on this week's addition of MMGM.