Fruitcakes Really are Monsters | BRUTE-CAKE (Binder of Doom #1)

Thank you Kid Lit Exchange and Scholastic for the ARC of BRUTE-CAKE (Binder of Doom #1) by Troy Cummings. It’s first in a series, but a spinoff of the bestselling Notebook of Doom series.

Having apparently rid Stermont of wacky monsters*, the Super Secret Monster Patrol (SSMP) has dissolved and unfortunately gone their separate ways. 

That is, until a mysterious note leads Notebook of Doom’s point of view character Alexander to both a series of monster trading cards he’s never seen before… and back to SSMP friends Nikki and Rip!

All I ask is that Scholastic makes real trading cards.

Enter an old tinned fruitcake, wishing the recipient a Merry Christmas 1922, in the attic of Rip’s new “historical site” older house. 

As if that weren’t scary enough, the Brute-Cake is a rampaging, technophobic miscreant on a mission to turn all the monsters in Stermont – including Nikki and Rip! – into icing statues. He’s already started his collection in Rip’s basement. 

A hilarious cliffhanger-type climax and a reunification of the SSMP, are a promising start to this new series.


  • The humor and silliness are over-the-top without being overtly gross. It’s always a good sign when my “I only like graphic novels” eight-year-old son is reading an ARC that doesn’t involve bodily functions.**
  • The SSMP has a very realistic boy-girl friendship dynamic. Nikki’s not a tomboy to fit in, overturning a trope in way too many books that doesn’t carry over into life.
  • Another Branches Chapter Book series, BRUTE-CAKE has enough high-interest graphics and/or diagrams on each page to help make the transition to this somewhat-longer (90 pages) chapter book.


  • Author/illustrator Troy Cummings appears to be white, but Alexander is presumably Black. While that’s non-incidental to the story, the species diversity of Nikki’s and Rip’s actually being (misunderstood as good guy) nice monsters comes up now and then. 

BRUTE-CAKE (Binder of Doom #1)  (and its sequel BOA-CONSTRUCTOR) are out now from Scholastic.

*Full disclosure: Mykids (ages seven and eight) and I are only a couple of books in to the Notebook of Doom series, so I’m not sure what warranted the spinoff.

**Could the lack of bodily functions be a caveat? 

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