A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Kids will learn some vampire lore, but they'll also learn about some real-world things like the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha and Edgar Allen Poe's poem, "The Raven." A definition of "incunabla" is given, veganism is explained, and banshees and ghouls are defined in an illustration.
When you want to change something about the way the world works, speak up: Even if you're not successful, you can start a process that can ultimately lead to change. Being cool doesn't necessarily mean you're nice, interesting, or even a good friend; coolness is in its own category.
Positive Role Models
Edgar, the sixth-grade vampire, likes science and social studies and wants to fit in at school and with his extended vampire clan. He bravely speaks up at a large gathering to ask for a change in long-held vampire tradition. He resolves his conflict with classmate and bully Gertie without violence, by talking with her and pointing out the potential pitfalls of her behavior. Once he achieves "cool" status at school, he sticks with his nerdy friends instead of abandoning them to hang out with other cool kids. Gertie ultimately accepts a truce with Edgar and eventually loses some status as an indirect result of her behavior. Parents and grandparents are present, caring, and concerned. Gender stereotypes are briefly reinforced when Edgar claims that boys like meat, but girls think eating meat is mean. In the story, there's a monster hierarchy with vampires at the top. The vampires look down on zombies and refer to them in disparaging ways (for being stupid and smelly).
Violence & Scariness
There's light gore designed to be delightfully gross. Lots of mentions of gross foods like raw liver sandwiches and blood pudding. It's mentioned that vampires no longer drink human blood and mostly drink frozen blood from blood banks, but that they do occasionally enjoy fresh blood from animals like dogs, pigs, and squirrels. It's also mentioned that zombies eat brains and that they can be killed in many different ways. Incidents of bullying include name calling, tripping, throwing spitballs, and stuffing garbage in the victim's backpack and locker. Narrator Edgar also claims that all school photographers are vampires and invites kids to look closely at them to see if they can tell if he or she is a vampire.
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"Doo doo" is mentioned a couple of times. Name calling includes "dweeb" and "loser."
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Products & Purchases
Mentioned once each: Bone and Spiderman comics, Dior.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults have "blood cocktails" at a family gathering. Vampires formerly had their main contact with people at night in bars, nightclubs, and emergency rooms, and the people they met there mostly drunk or sleazy.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Blood Diaries: Tales of a 6th-Grade Vampire is a foray into fantasy from veteran children's author Marissa Moss, of the Amelia's Notebook and Mira's Diary series. It's sure to delight big kids and tweens, especially reluctant readers, who revel in gross-outs. There's plenty of light gore, especially when it comes to food like raw liver sandwiches and blood pudding. The only real violence is bullying, including among other things name calling ("dweeb" and "loser"), tripping, and spitballs. Scariness is strictly in the fantasy realm, where it's mentioned that vampires sometimes drink the blood of animals and zombies eat brains. Younger kids could be scared by Edgar's assertion that all school photographers are vampires.
Is It Any Good?
Author Marissa Moss has really dialed in a formula for success here: "my family doesn't get me" plus "middle school is hard" plus vampires equals everything a reluctant reader could ask for. Edgar is very relatable as a regular sixth grader who wants to have friends, be one of the cool kids at school, and who just happens to be a vampire. Except for the very squeamish and the vampire-phobic, kids will revel in this gross and slightly gory introduction to vampire lore.
Kids looking for a lot of action and excitement, though, should look elsewhere. This story concentrates almost exclusively on Edgar's day-to-day trials, his emotional growth, and explanations of how things work in the vampire world. Edgar's narrative voice is believable and engaging. The illustrated-diary format is tried and true, with pen-and-ink illustrations (which kids will believe they could draw themselves) adding charm and realism.
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