Monday, December 15, 2008

Dodgeball Chronicles by Frank Cammuso (Scholastic, 2008)

Cindy: Cammuso takes the classic middle school nightmare (what if I can’t open my locker?) and gives it a heroic spin. Arte King is the new kid at Camelot Middle School and after a rocky start becomes the first kid able to open a special locker that has been sealed for years. Book one of the graphic novel series Knights of the Lunch Table features lots of fun stabs at the King Arthur legend while staying focused on the real fears and challenges that face middle school boys. Merlin is a young, bald African American science teacher with a goatee and pierced ear, the three lunch ladies recite the school menu in rhyme around a cauldron to predict the future, and Gwen saves the day in the big dodgeball tournament. I hope we see much more of her in the sequels. Cammuso’s brilliant illustrations and his cheeky storytelling make a magical combination.
Lynn: This engaging book is perfectly designed to attract middle school readers with its big panels and bright colors. It will also hold their attention with story elements such as tarantulas, besting bullies, and being the new kid in school. The clever riffs on the Arthur legend are the icing on the cake. Kids familiar with the story will pick out funny and affectionate details yet kids who don't know the story won't be lost. Boys and girls will find this a royal read.