Review Detail

Kids Fiction 941
A Spudtastically Funny Story
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Ben Hardy's family has moved from California to Idaho, and he's having a bit of a hard time adjusting. Luckily, he has made two friends, Ellie and Hunter, so has secured a safe place in the cafeteria. He also has a crush on a cheerleader, Jayla, and she seems to like him as well. When he gets involved in a hot dog throwing incident in the cafeteria that ends up putting the school mascot (a giant potato!) out of commission, the coach gives him an option--act as the mascot for the next four games, and stay out of trouble. Ben reluctantly agrees, even though he doesn't completely understand what he needs to do as the mascot. The coach, a former mascot himself, gives him some pointers, and Ben does some research on the internet, but it isn't until he has an underwhelming performance during the first game and his team loses that he begins to take his job seriously. He gets invited to a dance by Jayla (with an elaborate locker surprise) and agrees to go with her, and even meets her for a date before that. He has to lie to his friends and tell them he is grounded, since he doesn't want anyone to know he is the mascot. He does talk to Mitch, the custodian's son, who finds out his secret. He even makes an attempt to get the lonely Mitch to eat lunch with his friends. He also doesn't tell his parents that he is the mascot. This is a tenuous situation, and things will eventually meet with disaster. How long can Ben manage to make things work?
Good Points
This was such a delightful relief after months of deep, sad, lyrical middle grade fiction. The cover is fantastic and shows how much fun the book is going to be. The page illustrations are helpful in getting readers of Wimpy Kid to pick this up. I loved Ben-- he meant well but occasionally did stupid things. His crush on Jayla is perfect, as is his eventual realization that there is a better girl for him. There are lots of good details about life in middle school. I just adored this one!

This is a fantastic choice for readers who love Peirce's Big Nate, Vance's The Heartbreak Messenger, or Richards' Stu Truly series. Books that are humorous and action packed but also showcase small middle school problems are always needed to help students make sense of their own middles school experiences. Definitely looking for future titles by this author.
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