Each week for Paperback Throwback, I highlight a book from my ever-growing collection of older paperbacks, ‘90s and prior. Come check out everything from Zebra’s line of horror to Scholastic’s preteen Apple Paperbacks, and everything in between— you’ll know them by their stylishly cheesy covers, flashy plots, and cheap prices.
Join me on this stroll down Literary Memory Lane. Stops include Sweet Valley High, Fear Street, and anywhere else mass market paperbacks may be lurking.
This week’s throwback is best read in the shade.
Though perhaps best known for her wickedly popular The Baby-Sister’s Club series composed of over 100 sequels, Ann M. Martin has had a long and distinguished career writing for kids and teens. She initially worked as an editorial assistant before landing a role as a senior editor for the publishing company, all while writing her own books under the Apple Paperbacks banner.
Just one of her many novels for this line was 1989’s Ma and Pa Dracula.
Jonathan Primave is used to moving, but that doesn’t make his parents’ mad dash to a new home in the middle of the night any easier. But then, his parents have always been a little eccentric. Since they work at the blood bank at night, they have to sleep all day, meaning so does Jonathan. But after settling into yet another new house, Jonathan decides to step out into the daylight just this once, and soon he discovers a whole new world he knew nothing about.
After so many novels touching on the realities of pre-teen years, this makes for a fun fantastical read in the Martin canon. Yet, even while wielding the otherworldly, Martin manages to ground her text in what reality she can. She more than hints that the parents are indeed vampires (the blood bank jokes are legitimately funny), yet it takes a while for Johnathan himself to catch on. And when he does, he isn’t terrified of his parents for being the undead— no, he’s mad that they lied to him! Martin flips a monster book into a basic examination of family relationships.
She also manages some lightness with Jonathan transitioning to a ‘normal’ childhood, at least in terms of going to school. He’s as sheltered as a child can get, and he suffers with all the usual trappings a new kid faces. However, he also deals with a few special ones, like not understanding the cafeteria or the Pledge of Allegiance.
And yet, with all of this silliness, Martin manages to find a heart—without a stake in it—making this a sweet read about a seemingly not-so-normal family that’s more relatable than it first appears.
Title: Ma and Pa Dracula
Author: Ann M. Martin
Publication Date: 1989
Classification: Fantasy, Middle Grade