Ah, armpit odor and flatulence. What 6th grade boy DOESN'T want to read about those things? To varying degrees, both of these books embrace these middle grade interests. Too bad I didn't include The Fourth Stall, so we could have had the great Boy Troika of Disgusting.
Rex, Michael. Fangbone: Third Grade Barbarian
5 January 2012, Putnam Juvenile
In order to keep the toe of the evil Drool safe from his followers, young Fangbone is transported from his medieval, Vikingesque world into modern times, where he is befriended by Bill and the other students in class 3G at Eastwood Elementary. At first, they think Fangbone is a bit strange, but soon even the principal is donning fur boots. Invaders from his world keep seeping in to try to harm Fangbone, but with the help of his classmates, he keeps them at bay. His classmates want Fangbone to help out in the bean ball tournament, which they always lose, but he does not want to needlessly endanger the Toe of Drool. Can Fangbone successfully save his world AND class 3G?
Strengths: This is a very funny graphic novel, and I liked how there were no excuses made for the time travel of a weird kid showing up at school. I think even middle school students would like this one.
Weaknesses: I wouldn't have specified a grade, in order to broaden the appeal.
Harkrader, Anne. The Adventures of Beanboy
14 February 2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Tucker loves reading and drawing comics, hanging out with his friend Noah, and his family. Unfortunately, things are very difficult right now, because his father has left and moved away, his mother is struggling to keep up with a full time job and college course work, and Tucker has to spend a lot of time taking care of his younger, developmentally delayed brother Beecher. To make matters worse, he has to put up with a variety of bullies at school. When he decides to enter a contest to create a super hero and wants to attend an after school art club, one of the bullies, a quirky girl named Sam, is hired to babysit Beecher. Tucker comes up with the idea for Bean Boy, who harnesses the powers of beans, including inducing flatulence! He works hard on the contest, hoping that by winning, he can ease his family's financial situation. He also begins to realize that Sam is struggling with her own issues, and tries to help her out as well. Can Tucker keep up with his drawing and help his family stay afloat?
Strengths: I think it's great that there are more books coming out about students with family financial problems. This happens a lot, and there haven't been many books covering this. I also liked that the author did the drawings (including lots of comic panels) herself. This can be sold to students as a notebook novel, but really is much deeper.
Weaknesses: Not quite as funny as the author's book Airball: My Life in Briefs, which I just adored. Also, there have been a lot of books lately about boys who hang out at comic book stores, and none of my students have mentioned this as an interest. Still will buy.