Billy Hooten: Owlboy -- Thomas E. Sniegoski
Twelve-year-old Billy Hooten loves comic books, old monster movies, and he prefers Halloween to Christmas. He spends his time outside of school attempting to build robots and his time in school being harassed by Randy Kulkowski, a bully with "a gigantic square head" who calls Billy "Owlboy" because of his round glasses and his last name.
Turns out, though, that Randy Kulkowski may have been right about something for once in his life: Billy Hooten IS Owlboy. At least, according to the tuxedo-wearing goblin that Billy happens to save from a giant pig-man in the local cemetery*, he is.
According to Archebold the goblin, Billy Hooten is the next incarnation of Owlboy, the hero and protector of Monstros City, a secret city of monsters that exists underneath Billy's hometown.
WILL Billy find out if he has the courage and the confidence to wear Owlboy's night-vision goggles? DOES he have the skills to pass the Owlboy test? WHAT happened to the last Owlboy, and WHY did the comic books stop? And, possibly most importantly, HOW will he survive yet another game of dodgeball in gym class?
Billy Hooten: Owlboy is basically a BIFF! BANG! POW! comic book** in prose format. Especially the action, both physical:
Billy jumped back, startled by the crack of the door. The backs of his legs hit the lip of the coffin, and he stumbled backward. His arms flailed crazily as he tried to grab hold of something--anything--to prevent himself from falling backward into the open coffin.
Inside his head, Billy heard the sound of screeching brakes. No way. He had zero intention of going anywhere near a place called Monstros City . . . especially with a goblin.
The characters, too: They are almost all defined in very broad strokes, by a major personality trait or physical characteristic (Randy the Hulking Bully, Mitchell the Hyena-Laughing Sidekick, Billy's mother, who is easily distracted, his friends, one with Huge Braces, one who Tries Too Hard to be Cool, one who Spouts Shakespeare).
Eric Powell (of The Goon, hooray!) did the illustrations, which are, of course, fantastic, even if they don't always match the text. (Billy wears glasses, but isn't wearing them in most of the pictures.) It's such a little thing, but it's the kind of detail that I've heard kids point out again and again.
Good pick for reluctant readers, for series-book junkies, for comic book fans and for kids who like gross-out humor.
*It makes sense in the book, I promise.
**As opposed to comic books that feature more developed characters, richer storylines, etc.