Sometimes we all like a little scare, and in my son’s case, he enjoys a good story about monsters, particularly at bedtime. Lucky for him, we came across The Notebook of Doom series a couple of years ago. Written by Troy Cummings, the series includes 13 books as well as a spinoff series, The Binder of Doom, currently with 4 titles.

In the first book, we learn that Alexander Bopp has just moved to a new town named Stermont. Right away, strange things begin to happen but nothing that necessarily points to monsters. It’s only after noticing that every inflatable item in town is mysteriously without air, being attacked by those wacky waving inflatable tube guys that you see in the parking lots of car dealerships and nearly being killed by a wrecking ball crashing through the wall of what he thought was his new school before he begins to wonder if his new town is as quiet as it seems.

When Alexander finally gets to his new school (he’d been at the old school, conveniently on demolition day) he learns that it’s located in what used to be the town’s hospital. And his classroom? Well, yeah, it’s in the morgue! In between being embarrassed by his new teacher and being picked on my a scruffy kid named Rip, Alexander has time to reflect on a strange notebook he found in the old school, just before he was nearly clobbered by the demo crew.

It has a skull on the front cover and the letters S.S.M.P. It’s also missing a page and is filled with drawings of monsters and written attributes of each creature. Whoever drew the pictures sure has an overactive imagination. Or do they? Could it be that the monsters are real and the notebook was created as a guide to fend them off from overtaking Stermont?

Over the course of the first book, Alexander gains two friends in his classmates, Rip and Nikki. Together they learn the truth about the notebook, the meaning of the acronym S.S.M.P. and how to protect their town from the creeping threat of… well, I’ll just let you learn for yourself.

All books in the series are 96 pages long and are fully illustrated in black and white. They feature two page spreads of various monsters and include reading comprehension questions at the end. One thing that your child might find annoying is that each book recaps some of the same information, such as the names of each character, why Alexander has a nickname and later, the secret identity of one of the kids. My son finds it a bit annoying after so many books but you can always skip past it.

These books can be read together or independently. They’re a great option as a chapter book for a reluctant reader. My favorite features include the illustrations and the well-rounded depictions of the characters. Alexander’s father is shown as a single father and though he is a bit bumbling, you get the sense that it’s just his nature and not the result of him being without a partner. We learn that Rip isn’t the bully he appears to be and that Nikki is keeping a secret from her friends.

The Notebook of Doom series is perfect for boys who enjoy being a bit scared, who delight in surprise twists and who love it when kids are a tiny bit smarter than the adults in their lives. These books will keep you busy for about a week to two weeks, depending on who is reading. Do yourself a favor and inject a little fright into your good night routine.

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