Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Stupendous Dodgeball Fiasco by Janice Repka

With a plot line parallel to what's going on with this season of Glee, where Kurt's campaign platform for student government was to end dodgeball, this Middle Grade novel is a fast and fun read.

Phillip's dad is a clown. Literally. He's Leo Laugh-a-Lot. Phillip's mom is The Fat Lady. But 11 year old Phillip doesn't fit in at the Windy Van Hooten Circus. He doesn't want to be the guy following behind the elephants with the giant pooper-scooper. And everything 'circus' he tries to do ends in disaster. All Phillip wants is to be a regular kid.

So when he goes to live with his aunt and uncle in Hardington, the unofficial Dodgeball Capital of the World and home to The American Dodgeball Company, he thinks he's finally gotten his chance.

But there's a bully, B.B., who doesn't like him. Her dad is the hard-as-nails P.E. Coach. And every P.E. class is dodgeball. Every. Single. One.And Phillip is the #1 target.
Phillip keeps getting creamed in dodgeball, and when B.B. sends a screamer right at his face and his glasses break, he's had enough. When it costs his aunt more than two hundred dollars for new glasses, Phillip decides to take his bully to court to make her pay for the glasses.

And suddenly, it's not just about his glasses. It's about stopping the terror of dodgeball for all the kids who get hit with screamers every day. Dodgeball is dangerous.

But Phillip has started a war against the whole town of Hardington. Against the American Dodgeball Company. Against the American Dodgeball way of life. In the words of the book blurb,
"Can the elephant-poop scooping circus boy win his case and make life safer for everyone?"
Peppered with stylized and expressive illustrations by Glin Dibley, this story is entertaining and makes you think. It digs into some great issues of bullying and standing up - for yourself and others.

 I was rooting for Phillip, and liked how BB wasn't a cardboard villain, but a real girl who's a bully, and might be more...  I also liked how not everyone is who they seem to be, and there were some unexpected twists that made the ride more enjoyable.

Also, every chapter began with a 'circus saying' - some bit of circus lore, like Confucius wisdom or Fortune Cookie fortunes, but with a circus twist - like this one on page 125:
Pink Lemonade was created accidentally by a circus vendor who used a bucket of water that another performer had washed her red tights in. Whenever someone is being careless because they're rushing, circus performers say they're "making pink lemonade."
It infused the whole book with that circus feel, and made this tale of a boy, and a town, overcoming bullying really fun!


Ms. Yingling said...

I have to read this. My survival strategy was to pretend to be hit in the very first volley. Trying NOT to get hit is never good, because then you are alone on your side of the gym with everyone throwing balls at you... Dodgeball. It IS evil!

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

Yup. Don't like Dodgeball. Though there's a newer version I've seen, with a softer ball, and if you get hit, you become the next person to throw... So you're not "out", you're still in the game, just in a different role. But it's still not my favorite.
thanks for your comment,

david elzey said...

in one epic game of dodgeball in 8th grade i somehow managed to be the last man standing on my side... facing down five opposing players, each armed with a ball. we used volleyballs back in the day and i can promise you, being pelted by five volleyballs in rapid succession hurt like hell but made me a sort of hero in that no one had ever been so "fearless" as to not cower and run in the face of such odds. i stopped getting picked last for teams after that, even though i had no athletic abilities to speak of.

the book looks like fun though, for the odd circus element alone.