The Accursed Vampire

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Jul. 2021. 176p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780062954350; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780062954343.
Gr 5-8–Dragoslava, Quintus, and Eztli are each centuries old, but they haven’t matured beyond childhood. These three vampire children sleep in a coffin by day, complete with a pillow and stuffed animal, and drink “ethically sourced” blood that comes in bags. Dragoslava, who completes odd jobs for a remorseless witch under threat of magical torture, brings their friends along to Baneberry Falls, MI, to retrieve a grimoire. There they meet an adult vampire named Sara, her witch girlfriend Ayesha, and magical obstacles that force Dragoslava to choose between their obligations and friendship. McGrane channels the Kate Beaton school of comic timing, with impish protagonists who skate between delivering hilarious nonsequiturs and displaying vulnerability. One minute they’re crying in the street with nowhere to go, the next they’re absentmindedly coloring their menus in a diner. Many pages use six- or eight-panel grids of square panels, with double-wide panels to pause for impact. Dragoslava’s quest drives the story, with recurring flashbacks from the past few centuries telling the story of how they, Quintus, and Eztli met and bonded. McGrane’s humor and cute illustrations disarm readers just in time for deftly handled themes of accepting joy. Bald, pale white Dragoslava sports a cape and evokes a tiny, much more adorable Nosferatu; Quintus is Black; and Eztli is brown-skinned and bird-footed. Sara is white; Ayesha is Black.
VERDICT McGrane’s silly and spooky tale uses poignant moments about found families to touch readers’ hearts between bouts of laughter.

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