Lots of kids have a special interest, whether it's baseball or stamp collecting. For Sam, it's scary movies, and Dracula is his favorite character of all. So naturally, when Halloween comes around, Sam knows which costume he wants--the one with the cape and fangs. But then he spots something even more awesome: A detailed Dracula figure. His grandmother suggests he write to Santa Claus to ask for it, but Sam has a better idea: He writes to Dracula and asks if he can become a real vampire for Halloween.
Dracula doesn't get much mail, so when he reads Sam's letter, he decides to respond personally. He arrives at Sam's house on Halloween night, hypnotizes Sam's grandmother, and barges into Sam's room (where Sam is busy sulking because he's not allowed to go out on his own). As the two go for a walk under a full moon, Dracula explains exactly what being a vampire entails--hanging upside-down like a bat, sleeping in a coffin, avoiding sunlight. Sam reacts to each of Dracula's statements with a comment of his own, wondering, for instance, how Dracula can get ready in the morning if he can't see himself in the mirror.
When Dracula reveals that blood, not pizza, is the staple of a vampire's diet, Sam gets grossed out and starts to rethink his ambition. A life without hamburgers, tacos, and root beer floats, not to mention his favorite food, cheese, is the deal-breaker for Sam. He and Dracula agree to be friends, and Dracula drops him off at home, turns into a bat, and heads back to Transylvania. And by Christmas, Sam has found someone else to write to: Frankenstein.
The fun in this comic comes from Sam and Dracula comparing a vampire's lifestyle to a little kid's and comparing the gothic conventions of horror movies to the reality of a little boy's life. Dracula is presented as a kindly grownup, and all the horror elements are played strictly for laughs, so even younger children are unlikely to find the book too scary. Behind the scenes is a subtle lesson about learning about and respecting others' differences, but the creators wisely avoid hitting the reader on the head with an obvious moral.
Navarette's colorful art is exaggerated and funny, reminiscent of Nickelodeon cartoons. He keeps the backgrounds simple, using color rather than detail to set the scene, so the pictures are easy to interpret.
This book is rated for children 6 and up, but with only three or four panels per page, and plenty of silly humor, it would be a good read-aloud book for younger children as well.
-- Brigid Alverson