TITLE: The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod
AUTHOR: Heather Brewer
LENGTH: 182 pages
SUMMARY: Vladimir Tod is a vampire and a nerd. He’s bullied and tormented as only 8th graders can be yet he’s content with this less than perfect teenage existence. Sure, it’s a pain to pretend to eat real food, have to put on sunblock EVERY DAY – rain, snow, or shine – before going to school, and refrain from draining his tormentors dry, but it’s a price Vlad’s willing to pay in order to fit in with the human kids. Vlad’s father was a vampire and his mother was a human so he’s writing his own rule book as far as what is “normal” for his kind. He lives with his “Aunt” Nelly after his parents’ tragic deaths in a house fire and subsists on a combination of real food and bagged blood she pilfers from the blood bank at her job as a nurse. Vlad’s best friend, Henry, makes horrible puns about Vlad’s secret and the two are navigating their 8th grade year as best as any middle school boy can.
But then Vlad’s English teacher, Mr. Craig, goes missing and is replaced with the eccentric Mr. Otis Otis. And this substitute shows more than a passing interest in Vlad. As the search for Mr. Craig peters out, Mr. Otis begins to make more and more thinly veiled remarks about vampires and other supernatural creatures. Vlad worries that Mr. Otis may somehow know his secret. The impending threat of having his secrets out in the open sends Vlad searching for clues. He finds a strange symbol at Mr. Craig’s house that matches a book in his father’s library. He returns to his family’s former home to uncover the truths about his parents’ deaths, the reason for Mr. Otis’s interest in Vlad, and maybe even the legacy of the vampire world he has lived without. Until now.
BRIDGE: This book would be a great introduction for middle school students into the world of literary allusions. Brewer’s story is chocked full of references to Brahm Stoker’s Dracula as well as historically “vampiric” figures like Vlad the Impaler. Teachers could use the text as a companion to Dracula or in a set of vampirically themed YA to compare and contrast the different mythologies surrounding vampires. One could even do a minilesson on puns using the banter between Vlad and Henry.
For older students, this could even lead to research in different areas: history, mythological creatures, and even biology. It would also be a great way to introduce the tradition of myth and the use of allusion in layering a narrative.
READER: Any reader who is fascinated with the supernatural will enjoy Brewer’s Vlad. Though about vampires, the first few books in the series aren’t too gory and are well balanced with humor. The series would appeal more to male readers and would be a good pick for reluctant readers.
OTHER TITLES: Readers who like this book would also enjoy The Maximum Ride books by James Patterson, Fat Vampire by Adam Rex, The Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan, or The Skinjacker books by Neal Shusterman.