Friday, July 18, 2014

The Qwikpick Papers: Poop Fountain by Tom Angleberger

I had no idea of the history of this book. I just saw initial announcements and thought "hey, new series by Tom Angleberger!" Only later did I discover that it was actually his first published book and has now been reissued under his better-known name. I'm also not absolutely sure it's going to be a continuing series, which I will not tell my cataloger because we put the series on the spine! Oh nooooes!

At first, Lyle, Marilla, and Dave were a casual group of friends. However, when they realized they'd be the only kids who didn't have something to do on Christmas - Lyle's parents work at the Qwikpick, Dave is Jewish and Marilla's family are Jehovah's Witnesses - they decide they need to have a real adventure. A chance notice of an article in the paper and they decide on an outing to the soon-to-be-renovated sewage factory to see the poop fountain before it's removed. It's a journey full of unexpected surprises, much laughter, and horrible smells.

The story is narrated by protagonist Lyle Hertzog in the journalistic style that will be familiar to Angleberger fans now, but must have been quite confusing when this first came out, back before Wimpy Kid fever had hit. Lyle is honest, funny, and casual about the things that make up his quirky group of friends. He talks about his family's financial issues, how he feels about his wealthier friend's casual acceptance of money, and how their adventure changes their friendship.

Like Angleberger's later books, this is a surprisingly light and funny adventure with a lot going on beneath the surface. It doesn't hammer home the lessons, but uses the kids' realistic voices to not only give a voice to kids who are generally not portrayed in middle grade fiction but also to inspire a little deeper thought about what's going on in the lives of the kids around you. Unlike Amy Koss' The Not-So-Great-Depression, there are no fairy-tale, happy-ever-after endings; life goes on as usual (possibly just a little smellier than before). But there's laughter and friends and, as Lyle says, "now we're more than just kids who eat together or hang around together - we're The Qwickpick Adventure Society and nobody else at school can say that."

Verdict: A must-have for your collection. Not only will kids pick it up because of the author recognition, it's worth recommending on its own as a great story with just a little more. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781419704253; Originally published 2007, this edition published 2014 by Amulet/Abrams; Purchased for the library

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