Friday, June 17, 2022

Super Troop

Hale, Bruce. Super Troop
June 7th 2022 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Cooper and his best friend Nacho are looking forward to a summer of adventure before 7th grade, but because of hijinks they pull on a family trip to a local amusement park, end up with a much different adventure than they had planned. In trouble for getting off a ride and ending up with park security, the two boys are forced to join a local scouting group, the Boy Rangers, to learn some discipline and control their impulsivity. Cooper's mother and father, who are divorced, tell him he doesn't have to go to the thrice weekly troop meetings, but if he doesn't, he will forfeit attending a comic book camp to which he is greatly anticipating. The troop seems unimpressive at first; six boys, who don't seem to work well together and have their own personal quirks, and a leader who doesn't seem invested in his mission. After an unfortunate incident with a fire, the addition of three girls because of a lawsuit, and the replacement of their leader with a former military man, Rocky Pierce, things at least get more interesting. Cooper desperately wants to reunite his parents, who have been divorced for two years, and hopes that if he perseveres with the troop that this will bring them closer together. This will be tough, since his father is living with his girlfriend, whom Cooper calls "Shasta McNasty", and her young twin daughters. This doesn't keep him from trying to arrange meetings between his parents, and when his mother starts to date Mr. Pierce, he and Nacho attempt an ill-conceived prank. This gets them in further trouble, and they have to spend time cleaning up Mr. Pierce's back yard. The troop is preparing to enter a jamboree, and as part of their training, attempt to camp in the wilderness at the end of a seven mile hike. This goes poorly, anad the parents are not happy. Mr. Pierce has a public hearing to determine his fitness to be a troop leader. Will Cooper be able to overcome his personal feelings about his leader in order to help out the troop, which has come to mean more to him than he expected?
Strengths: There should be many more books about camping, like Gebhart's There Will Be Bears and Gansei's The Wild Bunch, and more books about scouting as well. There are not enough humorous books being published, and camping is an experience that not all young readers get to have, so a funny story about the process is most welcome. It was good to see that Nacho's moms and Cooper's parents were determined that their antics at the amusement park had consequences, and followed through even when the boys complained. Seeing Cooper's parents work together from separate households was also helpful. Although Cooper claims not to like Shasta and her girls, he gets along well with them. The inclusion of girls in the troop goes fairly smoothly; Cooper and the other scouts don't complain, and it takes a tiny bit of mental adjustment on Mr. Pierce's part. Since the Campfire organization has been co-ed since 1975, that was good to see. Mr. Pierce is tough, but fair, and when he makes an error of judgment, he readily admits to it and takes steps to better prepare for future endeavors. While characters' ethnicities aren't integral to the story, there is a realistic amount of diversity in the characters. With its humorous cover, Super Troop is a book that middle grade readers will eagerly pick up.
Weaknesses: There are parts of this that seemed oddly dated. From the slovenly, overweight troop leader to a stop at a video game arcade to scouts playing with knives and lighters, this felt in spots like books from the 1980s, like Smith's The War with Grandpa, especially when Cooper and Nacho try to prank Mr. Pierce with a stink bomb. Young readers won't mind, but I was just a little surprised. 
What I really think: I will definitely purchase a copy, since Hale's other books, like Playing with Fire, The Monstertown Mysteries, and Switch are all popular with my students. Hale has moved to the top of my list of authors who should write a novel about boys setting up a babysitting service in their neighborhood (along with Jake Burt and Dan Richards), but I do wish that there had been a few tweaks to some of the wording and situations.
 Ms. Yingling

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