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Book review: 3rd in Janitors series 'Curse of the Broomstaff' to delight young fans

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 1 2015 12:02 a.m. MDT

"Curse of the Broomstaff" is the third book in Utah author's Tyler Whitesides' Janitors series. (Deseret Book)

"JANITORS 3: Curse of the Broomstaff," by Tyler Whitesides, Shadow Mountain, $18.99, 360 pages (f) (ages 9-12)

The Janitors series is based on an unlikely premise: Custodians wield magical cleaning supplies to ward off school-roaming monsters. After building momentum with his first two novels, Utah author Tyler Whitesides doesn’t disappoint with “Curse of the Broomstaff,” his third installment of the fantasy series which is scheduled to be released Sept. 10.

Whitesides creates a smooth, energetic story that provides an even more exciting ride than its predecessors. The narrative is clever, and the magical props seem even reasonable. A toilet brush doubling as a boat propeller? It totally works.

The story opens three months after sixth-grader Spencer Zumbro’s adventure at New Forest Academy. Spencer is an Auran — a permanent 12-year-old with special abilities — and a part of the Rebel crew of janitors tasked with fighting the evil Bureau of Maintenance.

Utah author Tyler Whitesides writes the middle-grade Janitors series. Utah author Tyler Whitesides writes the middle-grade Janitors series. "Curse of the Broomstaff," the third in the series, is scheduled to be released in September. (Erin Summerill Photography)

The BEM spreads Toxite monsters into elementary schools across America to feed on students’ brain waves and impede learning. Reunited with his dad and joined by good friend Daisy Gates, Spencer and the Rebel team journey to a remote, enchanted landfill to search out the other Aurans and a mysterious, magical tool.

A few new characters debut, including garbologist Dr. Bernard Weizmann, a funny, eccentric addition to the Rebel team. Bernard’s lively dialogue adds to the story’s gentle humor, which is kid-minded but sure to elicit a few chuckles from adults, as well.

Another clever addition to the story is the appropriately disgusting setting at the enchanted landfill, where “Thingamajunks” rise from the trash. The dimwitted, threatening mounds of garbage are tamed with — what else? Trash talk.

The scariness factor is upped a notch with the introduction of enormous, electric Toxites, ridden and controlled by the BEM workers. Razor blades that grow into lethal swords are added to the arsenal of weapons employed to kill the scary monsters. The violence is mostly tame, though, and adds to the energy of the story. The language and other content are kid-friendly.

Whitesides creates an ending that outlines what to expect in the sequel, building anticipation for Janitors 4.

If you go ...

What: "Curse of the Broomstaff" book launch, including Tyler Whitesides with the Jammin' Janitors and book signing

When: Friday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m.

Where: Logan High School, 162 W. 100 South, Logan

Web: tylerwhitesides.com

Also ...

What: Tyler Whitesides book signing

When: Tuesday, Sept. 17, 7 p.m.

Where: Deseret Book, 754 N. Main St., Layton

Web: deseretbook.com

Also ...

When: Thursday, Sept. 19, 6 p.m.

Where: Deseret Book — Sugarhouse, 2274 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City

Also ...

When: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Deseret Book 1420 S. Providence Center Drive, Cedar City

Also ...

When: Thursday, Sept. 26, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Deseret Book, 735 S. Bluff. St. George

Megan Gladwell is an Indiana native and mother of four. She blogs at bookclub41.blogspot.com and her email is mlgladwell@gmail.com.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company