cover image Benji Zeb Is a Ravenous Werewolf

Benji Zeb Is a Ravenous Werewolf

Deke Moulton. Tundra, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-7748-8052-4

White-cued Benji Zeb—on the cusp of making his bar mitzvah—is struggling to keep many secrets as well as live up to the expectations of his kibbutz family. His first secret—he and his Modern Orthodox Jewish brood are werewolves who also operate a wolf sanctuary—is the least of his worries. It’s the fact that Benji has a crush on former friend Caleb Gao, who is of Chinese descent, that makes Benji nervous. Caleb was one of few people Benji was confident being himself around, but when the new school year starts, Caleb inexplicably begins ignoring Benji. Moreover, tensions have increased throughout Benji’s rural Washington town, which is facing financial challenges. Hoping to incite further upheaval, Caleb’s white farmer stepfather engages in racist, antisemitic, and homophobic rhetoric that threatens the Zebs’ livelihood. Moulton (Don’t Want to Be Your Monster) explores relevant issues surrounding anxiety, faith, prejudice, sexuality, and prioritizing others’ safety over personal comfort in this allegorical creature feature. It’s a heartening tale, ferried by Benji’s sincere first-person POV and enlivened by his endearing interactions with Caleb. Abundant back matter includes a Hebrew and Chinese glossary, author’s note, and anxiety resources. Ages 10–14. Agent: Rena Rossner, Deborah Harris Agency. (July)