A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Lots of information about the ways of vampire bats -- who, as one of the characters points out, are much less scary than horror fiction would have you believe. Puzzles, ciphers, and problem-solving skills come into play. Also a bit here and there about the real-life Count Vlad Dracul, who got the whole legend going. Plenty of vocabulary-building moments, e.g.: "The new door left Alexander with a conundrum, a fancy word for a puzzling problem."
Strong messages of family, and the bonds between siblings who understand each other very well -- especially when it comes to each kid's quirks and fears, and the power of having each other's back. Courage, empathy, teamwork, problem-solving skills, and the ability to adjust to rapid plot twists are all important.
Positive Role Models
Big sister Wil has serious computer-hacking skills and tends to be a bit spacey when focused on her screen, which is most of the time, but takes her responsibility for her sibs very seriously. Alexander, who's something of a worrier, wants everything nice and orderly, while his twin Theo is more a rule breaker than a follower, but they've been strongly bonded from birth and always support each other -- which is a good thing when your parents unaccountably disappear and leave you with a weird aunt. The absent Sinister-Winterbottom parents, especially the coping and meditation skills their mom taught them for dealing with mental turmoil, are a strong influence. Several characters who seem creepy actually are, while others are just misunderstood.
Twelve-year-old, White, freckled twins Theo(dora) and Alexander often grapple with psychological challenges, as Theo's brain runs fast and tends to get tangled up, while Alexander can get paralyzed by anxiety. Their mom, who's out of the picture temporarily, but not out of their heads, has given them good coping skills. Their big sister Wil, 16, is Black, and also a computer genius. One set of kid characters has two moms; another kid character has an unusual disability -- she's allergic to sunlight.
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Violence & Scariness
Vampires, locked rooms, dark hallways, and a whole lot of red fluids, to say nothing of lots of bats, are essential to the story, which mostly assumes you already know about vampires and doesn't go into too much gory detail, though there's a mention of an especially creepy variety with long, needle-like tongues. In the background, Alexander and Theo's parents have disappeared in Book 1, and parents seem to be disappearing a lot in Book 2 also. Nobody seems to come to actual harm, but it's often spooky.
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Poop humor becomes a theme in bad puns.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Vampiric Vacation is the second book in a planned four-volume Sinister Summer series by Kiersten White. The creepy, funny tale finds 12-year-old twins Theodora and Alexander Sinister-Winterbottom and their big sister Wilhelmina trying to solve the mystery of why their parents have disappeared in the middle of the night, leaving them with a creepy aunt they didn't know they had. Who seems to be sending them on an unexplained quest to retrieve unexplained objects at assorted vacation destinations -- in this case, the Sanguine Spa in Little Transylvania, where, apparently, you go to get drained. As the book title suggests, there is lots of talk of vampires. There are plenty of spooky corridors, twisty passages, locked rooms, disappearing parents, perilous situations, and lots of red fluids, but no one comes to real harm. The sibs are quirky and resourceful, and kindhearted to those in distress. Alexander also has a bit of a crush on a pretty girl at the spa, but the fact that her last name is Blood and she might be a vampire may be a deal-breaker.
Is It Any Good?
Kiersten White's creepy, funny tale puts 12-year-old twins Theo and Alexander in many perils as their spooky aunt drops them at a luxurious but peculiar spa with some definite Dracula overtones. Red fluids, comically creepy villains, locked rooms, cavernous cliffs, twisty passages and other dire dangers await on Theo and Alexander's Vampiric Vacation. So does a lot of wry, understated humor:
"'People don't understand that a scary name doesn't necessarily mean a scary thing,' said Mina Blood to Alexander and Theo Sinister-Winterbottom."
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