by Obert Skye
Obert Skye’s The Creature from my Closet series features mashups of popular fictional creatures/characters. There’s Wonkenstein (Willy Wonka/Frankenstein), Pinocula (Pinocchio/Dracula), and Katfish (Katniss/Ariel, the Little Mermaid). The second book in the series is the Potterwookiee, which is a miniature Chewbacca with Harry Potter’s lightning bolt scar and accessories. Yes, a small wookiee wizard with a British accent! Now you’ve heard everything.
The story’s main character and narrator/scribe is Rob. He’s your normal tween boy. He perceives every family member as an embarrassing problem. He is unsure how to handle himself socially. And now he has a Potterwookiee to deal with, too. How did he come to have a Potterwookiee? His dad replaced his closet door with a secondhand one that is suspiciously heavy and is adorned with the face of a bearded fellow. One day, his mom made him clean his room, and he shoved everything into the closet together and shut that special door. He suspects that his science kit’s chemicals are all mixing with the books, and presto — we have some crazy hybrid characters walking out. He calls the Potterwookiee Hairy, which is substantially less fun (but a lot easier) to say than “Potterwookiee.”
Rob wants to impress a girl, Janae, and has a plan to win an Average Chef cooking contest to get her to notice him. He also struggles with a bike-stealing, hair-ruining bully named Wilt. His older sister is obnoxious, and his tagalong little brother is always trying to do what he does. He needs all the help he can get, so a pint-sized hairy wizard may be some extra stress, but it also may just help him out!
The storyline is pretty simple, and that makes it very accessible. Potterwookiee may appeal to many kinds of readers in the same way that Diary of a Wimpy Kid does. It’s funny, kids can relate to it, and it has pictures. Oh, yes, it has pictures. Unlike Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the illustrations in Potterwookiee don’t dominate the story. They are smaller and more subtle, but they are there to break up long blocks of words. The text is sort of deadpan, while the pictures use more playful imagery. This combination makes for a one-two punch of humor, and that makes for some genuine laughter.
There’s some substance here, though. It provides a lot of great conversation starters for tweens — family dynamics, romantic attraction (and cluelessness), how to deal with bullies. It’s also refreshing to see Rob turn to books for answers and inspiration. We constantly preach to our kids to do just that, but it’s not often that characters do the same. There is more text than in many books that appeal to reluctant readers and/or tween boys, and that balance with the illustrations makes it very comfortable. Skye’s done a great job appealing to this group, which is often overlooked or talked down to by the publishing industry. At the same time, even kids who love reading will enjoy this book and series. The pop culture angle keeps things fresh and fun, and it’s a good and low pressure read. And, of course, the appeal of a title character created from Star Wars and Harry Potter is undeniable to most kids. My 8 year old girl and power reader insisted we pick this up at the school book fair, and she giggled her way through it in one day. It definitely has a great range and would make a fun gift for any kid in the 8-12 range.