January 28, 2020
Ollie and his older brother, Hollis, have wrestling in their blood: Their mom was a pro whose dreams of stardom were dashed by a devious opponent. Now she’s an overworked, underpaid ref at Slamdown Town, the local arena. Ollie’s goal in life is to win the golden championship belt for his mom—immediately followed by his other goal: to hang his bully of a brother from the roof by his tightie-whities. But there’s one problem: Ollie inherited their estranged dad’s puny frame, while Hollis got their mom’s brawn. Thus Ollie has resigned himself to a fate of wrestling mediocrity and wet willies . . . until the day Hollis gifts him a piece of stale gum and forces him to chew it. Ollie soon discovers that the gum—bought on eBay and formerly chewed by a wrestling legend— has an unusual side effect: the ability to physically transform Ollie into a pro wrestler. As Big Chew, Ollie’s finally able to put Hollis in his place and be a star. But when trouble befalls his family, being Big Chew gets a lot more complicated. In the end, Ollie knows he can’t have it all; and it’s only when he asks himself who he really is that he learns what it means to be a champion.
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
There are lots of good bits of information about staging a professional wrestling fight. Professor Pain's videos lay everything out for Ollie, but it's not that easy. The costume alone is difficult, and involves a lot of strange items from the family attic, including a pair of Ollie's grandfather's underpants that become an integral part of the costume! The banter is dissected, and Ollie tries his best to get a handle on what works best. The signature move, the Bubble Blast, is slightly illegal, but hitting his opponents with his wrestling boot with gum on it certainly is effective. Hollis and Ollie clearly have a lot invested in the sport, and eventually overcome their differences because of it.
I really enjoyed the fact that the wrestlers were split between males and females, and compete against each other without any difficulty. I am completely unfamiliar with professional wrestling, so don't know if this is true to form. It works out particularly well when a little known rule comes in to play during the Big Chew's match with Werewrestler!
Including Ollie's struggles in school, and problems with his best friend, ground this somewhat goofy fantasy with some realistic problems that many middle grade readers face. I wasn't entirely sold on the fact that one wrestling match would save Slamdown Town, but since the owner was an egomaniacal caricature, it just added a level of silliness to the story.
Readers who understand the world of professional wrestling will certainly enjoy this romp, but I can seeing being popular also with fans of Patterson's I Funny or Zach King's magic Trilogy. The energy and level of goofiness is about the same.
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