Joshua Dread

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Joshua Dread Book Poster Image
Hilarious saga of middle-schooler with supervillain parents.

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age 8+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids with a fondness for robots and technology will get a kick out of the imaginative creations here, from fire-belching engines of destruction to monsters built from nano-machines. Budding botanists will giggle at Mrs. Dread's sinister creations. Interesting discussions about what's possible and what's fantasy may result.

Positive Messages

Despite a constant barrage of cartoonish perils, there are a lot of lessons here that apply to our more mundane world: appreciation for parents, family, and friends; negotiating a tricky ethical landscape of conflicting loyalties and an even trickier one of adolescent clique-dom; bravery, resourcefulness, and loyalty saving the day. Also, bullies get their comeuppance in gratifying ways.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both the villainous Dreads and the pompously virtuous Captain Justice emerge as complex people rather than their cartoonish alter egos -- they all have strengths and weaknesses, from the endearing to the life-threatening, and they all are devoted to their children. Joshua, Milton, and Sophie all show courage, determination, and loyalty to each other, as well as to their families.


The violence is abundant and cartoonish, involving various creatures wreaking havoc and characters hell-bent on killing each other. While the landscape and buildings will never be the same, humans (as contrasted to robots, holograms, and zombies) rarely come to any actual harm. Still, one kid's mother has mysteriously died before the story begins, and another's parents are apparently killed by smoke monsters. Joshua's unexpected superpower proves handy for throwing bullies against the wall in mid-attack.


Future romance may not be out of the question for Joshua and Sophie, but for the moment they have more pressing concerns.


A couple of comic references to the scorched butt-prints in the carpet that result from energy surges related to Joshua's superpower.


Real-world mass-market products make an occasional appearance, as when Milton hopefully requests 26 cans of Dr. Pepper. Captain Justice's thriving career in product endorsement comes in for a good deal of satire, even if Justice Jerky is a hit with kids and zombies alike. A rebranding campaign run amok is at the root of many disastrous plot twists.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Joshua Dread is full of monsters, mutants, and zombies, which isn't so surprising when the sixth-grade narrator's parents are secretly supervillains. The story starts with the Dread Duo attempting to destroy the world, only to be foiled by arch-enemy Captain Justice, a  superhero with a knack for self-promotion. Comic mayhem ensues, complete with a lot of annihilated robots and engines of destruction, and lots of characters who are apparently killed only to reappear later in the action. As he tries to find his way in this wacky world, Joshua also deals with the challenges of friendship, family and loyalty, not to mention the sudden discovery of his own superpower.

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Kid, 10 years old June 30, 2020


I think is an AMAZING book good for ALL AGES

What's the story?

Sixth grade is no day at the beach to begin with, but it's worse for young JOSHUA DREAD, who's spent his childhood landing in a new town with a new name every time someone starts to suspect his harmless-looking parents' secret identity as supervillains. HIs parents start the story by trying to destroy the world, only to be foiled by arch-rival Captain Justice -- a scenario that's been going on as long as Joshua can remember. Also, Joshua has just discovered that he has a superpower of his own. As he and his friends Milton and Sophie cope with hazards from hostile mutant plants to brain-eating zombies, not to mention corporate greed, in venues ranging from middle school to a trade show for supervillains, unexpected alliances and life lessons emerge.

Is it any good?

Adults and kids will have many laugh-out-loud moments as Joshua and his friends face assorted perils and surprise discoveries in this fast-moving, irresistible book. They may be different moments, though (to fully appreciate the Vile Fair, for example, it helps to be a veteran of trade shows). Fans of brain-eating zombies and man-eating plants will enjoy the role of monsters in defining the characters and furthering the plot. Along the way, readers share Joshua's discoveries that even parents with superpowers have a full range of strengths and weaknesses, that even supervillains love their children, and that you may have more in common with your enemies than you thought.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why stories with monsters and supervillains are so popular. How they can be scary, funny, or both?

  • Sophie and Joshua might seem like unlikely friends, considering that their parents are sworn enemies. Do you think kids can still be friends even if their parents don't get along?

  • If you had a superpower like Joshua's, would you want to use it for good or evil?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Humor and fantasy

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