Junior book series – do they sell? Often it is a question of semantics. Do kids love them? That answer is a no-brainer and when they are as first-rate as these are, it’s no wonder why.
Hot on the heels of the sensationally popular Eric Vale series by Michael Gerard Bauer is Secret Agent Derek ‘Danger’ Dale The Case of Animals Behaving Really, REALLY Badly. It’s hard to imagine a storyline more epic than its 13-word title, but Bauer manages it with trademark, laugh-out-loud lunacy.
Derek Dale spins straight off the pages of Eric Vale’s journal, springing from imagination into real life with the fearless and somewhat incredulous abandon of a male pray mantis looking for love. He is swarthy and buff, with a Dr. Chris Brown jawline that makes your eyes water. And he’s the worst hope Secret Agents R Definitely NOT Us has of defeating the vile genius of evil Doctor Evil MacEvilness. Doc Evil is on a mission to abscond with the world’s biggest diamond by duping the four most deadly animals on the planet into servitude. Can Derek Dale bumble his shirtless way through their attempts to destroy him and outwit MacEvilness while maintaining his secret-agentness and remaining in his boss’s good books? You’ll have to laugh your way through this tongue-in-cheek high-energy spoof to find out.
Bauer, along with his talented son, Joe Bauer’s cartoon-strip-esque illustrations, elevate Eric Vale’s imagined adventurer into riotous superhero status. Secret Agent Derek Dale dispenses with the emotional depth of Eric Vale, being more suited to the younger siblings of readers of the first series but still delivers the laughs and packs plenty of goofball punches. Move over Captain Underpants, there’s a new hero in town, who really, REALLY needs a shorter name.
Speaking of shorter names, spare a thought for Weir, Weir Do. WeirdDo 2 Even Weirder! is Book 2 in a zany new series for 6 – 8 year-olds by award winning author and hilarious stand-up comic, Anh Do (as in rhymes with go – getting it now?).
Illustrated by Jules Faber, WeirDo 2 follows the popular format of heavily illustrated cartoon-like, side-splittingly humorous novels that cause kids to smash open their piggy banks.
Weir is the product of a weird family. His mum is cheap, his sister is borderline obsessive compulsive, his little brother, Roger chucks everything into the bath, and his dad has an uncanny way of drawing out his bodily emissions. It’s all pretty straightforward bizarreness until Weir gets hung up on the seventh best-looking girl in school, Bella. He is keen to impress her the best way he knows how, with one of his drawings.
He thinks he’s in with a chance when she invites him to her birthday party but things turn typically weird starting with a severe case of the ‘finkles’. How Weir and his family turn disaster into divinely good fun makes for one of the most wacky, comical reads I’ve had for a while. WeirdDo 2, Even Weirder! is a rib tickling and surprisingly tender look at today’s social diversity, family make-up, and how little kids with unfortunate names fit into the mix. Plus it has a snazzy animated motion cover too. Ripper!
Both books available now here.
Scholastic Australia 2014