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Book Review

Joshua Dread by Lee Bacon has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Joshua Dread” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Sixth-grader Joshua Dread has a secret. His parents are some of the world’s most infamous supervillains, Dr. Dread and the Botanist. Together, they’re known as the Dread Duo. Strange things are always going on at Joshua’s house. His mom keeps zombies in the basement and grows dangerous plants. His dad creates inventions that he uses in the couple’s schemes. But even Joshua’s best friend, Milton, doesn’t know he has anything but a normal family.

Joshua’s school is evacuated when the Dread Duo threatens to change the weather and destroy the world. They do this kind of thing periodically, Joshua says. They don’t want to annihilate the planet, just to cause havoc; they believe they can start the world over, shake up the power structure and do things right next time. The Duo is thwarted by Captain Justice, a hero known for his holographic weapons and fondness for product endorsements.

Joshua avoids his parents for a while, as they’re always distracted and moody after a failed attempt to destroy the planet. Milton, a huge Captain Justice fan, rambles on about the recent events, as he and Joshua eat lunch at school. The boys overhear girls at their table gossiping about the new girl, Sophie Smith. They say she and her father recently moved into a palatial home outside of town with guard towers and machine guns.

Bullies Joey and Brick pick on Joshua, as usual. Joshua starts feeling strange surges of power when they threaten him. He mentions this to his parents, who finally confess he is GYFTED (Genetic Youth Fluctuation, Triggering Extraordinary Development). In other words, he has a superpower. Now it’s up to him to decide whether to use it — in his case, the ability to make things spontaneously combust — for good or evil.

Joshua’s parents take him to a supervillain convention, hoping to convince him to join their side. Phineas Vex, head of the leading supervillain supply company, VexaCorp, begins to speak. Suddenly, smoke creatures show up and make Vex and some of the other supervillains disappear. Joshua’s parents later discover these creatures are comprised of tiny robotic entities that have the power to break down molecules and redistribute them elsewhere.

When Joey and Brick threaten Joshua again, a strange force rips lockers apart and wraps the bullies in metal. Joshua is sure he’s spotted Sophie Smith leaving the scene. She later confronts Joshua, saying she knows he has a Gyft like she does. He begins to open up to her about his parents, until he learns her father is Captain Justice.

Sophie, Milton and Joshua are preparing to work on their class project when a metallic spider-like creature the size of a golf cart breaks out from under the street. It’s stamped with a “Z” logo like the one Joshua’s parents found on the robotic creatures at the convention. Sophie calls her robotic butler to save them, and he takes the kids to Captain Justice’s headquarters.

Joshua overhears Captain Justice talking to a holographic head named Fink about an “aggressive” plan. As the butler drives the kids home, Joshua sees his parents in their villain outfits standing outside of Chemico Labs. He knows they’re trying to steal a dangerous chemical they hope will help them find Vex and the other supervillains, which the smoke creatures abducted. Smoke creatures appear, and Joshua’s parents vanish.

He’s forced to confess to his friends that Dr. Dread and the Botanist are his parents. He says he needs to steal the chemical that they were searching for, and Sophie and Milton say they will help him. An alarm goes off, summoning Captain Justice to the scene. Joshua manages to find the chemical and hide it in his clothes. He tells Sophie and Milton about the conversation he overheard between Justice and Fink and says he thinks Captain Justice is controlling the smoke creatures.

Back at home, Joshua discovers his parents have left him instructions on what to do with the chemical. This also gives him the GPS coordinates of where they and the other supervillains have been imprisoned. Joshua, Sophie and Milton use the Dread Duo’s hover scooters to fly to an old hotel where the villains are being held.

Captain Justice is there, talking to a no-longer-holographic Fink. Captain Justice is stunned when Sophie accuses him of kidnapping all the supervillains. His only desire was to increase his popularity with product placement. Fink traps Justice and Sophie, and then Vex appears. He reveals he plans to kill Captain Justice and his daughter and make the world believe Captain Justice was behind the supervillain kidnappings. When he tells the world he rescued all of the supervillains, he believes his publicity and profits will soar.

Joshua knows he has to save his friend and her father. He uses his powers to battle Vex, free the supervillains and rescue Sophie and Captain Justice. Captain Justice uses his Protective Umbrella of Virtue to help the supervillains get out of Vex’s facility. Joshua believes Vex may have been crushed to death beneath the rubble in the crumbling building, but no one is sure of his fate. Captain Justice drives Joshua and his parents home in his armored SUV, and the adults banter politely about their weapons of choice.

Joshua, Sophie and Milton save the school from one of Mom’s escaped zombies. They keep the students safe until Joshua’s parents arrive to round up the creature. Joshua is pleased to see his parents making the world better for once. He wonders what will happen next time they meet Captain Justice.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Joshua's mom keeps zombies in the basement.

Authority Roles

Vex fakes his own disappearance to capture supervillains for publicity. He plants a bomb in Sophie’s mother’s car, killing her. He also kills his assistant, Fink, to keep the man from revealing the truth about his schemes.

Captain Justice cares about saving people but seems equally concerned with maintaining publicity and product endorsements. Joshua’s parents are often distracted with their supervillain projects, such as creating new devices or caring for zombies, but they are not inherently evil people. They aren’t looking to destroy the world so much as to shake up the power structure and create a better future.


Butt and heck appear. Readers learn Vex has killed people, including Sophie’s mom, but graphic details do not appear in the text.



Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Theft: Joshua steals a dangerous chemical to thwart Vex and save his parents.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

9 to 13


Lee Bacon






Record Label



Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House Inc.


On Video

Year Published



ABA New Voices Pick, 2012; Oregon Battle of the Books Selection, 2016-17 and others


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