If you’re a parent with children of a certain age, you will probably have had the pleasure of sitting through Shark Boy and Lava Girl. For this adult, it was pure torture. By the end of the film, I was ready to pull my eyes from their sockets. I was introduced to the film by my kindergartner, who was playing Shark Boy and Lava Girl every day on the playground at Hough Elementary in Vancouver, WA. From any adult point of view, the film is a disaster. It has little discernible plot, characters which aren’t really characters, and special effects which push beyond cheesy into simulated cheese substitute. It scores a whopping 16% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes from Top Critics.
However, the film jumped from awful in my eyes to something very different when, wandering through the DVD extras, I came across a home movie made by the director Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez was in his pool playing with his son, saying, “So what happens next?” His son, who was all of five or six, was telling him a story. That story became Shark Boy and Lava Girl. Talk about geek dad street cred! How many kids will be able to say that they helped write a feature film with their dad? Oh, by the way, not only did Racer Rodriguez help write the film, he also helped cast the lead actors and had a cameo in the film as well.
Here is the important point: the project didn’t fail with the target demographic. Remember, my daughter just had to see it because anyone who was anyone on the playground was playing Shark Boy and Lava Girl. The target demographic loved it. Adults, especially those who write reviews and partially control its ability to be seen by the target demographic, hated it. To my eyes, that’s a problem. I try to keep this story in mind whenever I review books or products aimed at kids. If I am going to critique a product aimed at my children, I better be sure that my critique isn’t just based upon the fact that I am too old to get it.
So when my ten-year-old got caught by her mother reading We Give a Squid a Wedgie, by C. Alexander London, in bed, 45 minutes after lights out, on a school night, I decided right then, that if she wanted to do it, she would get to write the GeekDad review. Yes, I did help her edit it. That said, her review is by no means what I would write. These are still her words. Remember you and I are not the target demographic for the book. So if you’re a parent of a middle-grade reader, I suggest you simply get out of the way and let them talk about We Give a Squid a Wedgie without interference from us. Here is her review. (Warning: If you haven’t read the first book, it has a minor spoiler.)
We Give a Squid a Wedgie, book three of the four-book series An Accidental Adventure, is a fun book about two twins on an adventure at sea. An adventure that draws the Navels closer as a family. An adventure that draws the twins to want to watch T.V. even more. The humor of this book makes me want to write like C. Alexander London.
I really enjoy London’s characters. Corey Brandt is a hilarious heartthrob movie star who is trying to get into the Explorers Club. This teenager is always spelling out words, and he is always so kind to both Oliver and Celia Navel, even though they aren’t always friendly to him. The heroes of the story, Oliver and Celia Navel, are ordinary twins and very realistic too. That means they are always bickering. What I like about this is that they always resolve it in a way that makes their friendship grow and change in a good way, although they can bicker a little too much and a little too long for my liking.
As my dad and I were reading the first chapter out loud, we couldn’t help but laugh. Oliver and Celia are at the New Year’s party for the Explorers Club, where they live with their father, who is the explorer in residence. They have a hilarious debate about whether the purple and brown blobs on a server’s tray are food. But this scene isn’t London’s funniest. Through this whole chapter and through the whole book I was laughing out loud, sometimes at the twins or at Corey Brandt or at other characters, but I was surely always laughing!
One thing that frustrates me about the Accidental Adventure series is Oliver and Celia’s mother. She can be quite rude sometimes and doesn’t always care about it. She is always running off on adventures and doesn’t come back for at least a year and never sends word of where she is. That really annoys me, because that is being a bad parent in my opinion.
These are only some things I like and don’t like about the book We Give a Squid a Wedgie, but overall there is more to like than dislike. I like London’s writing because it is clear that he cares about the reader. He cares about his characters and doesn’t make it a typical story. He has a wonderful imagination, and his characters aren’t either black or white; they are realistic. London’s writing takes me to a land of adventures.
The first three books of the series An Accidental Adventure, We Are Not Eaten by Yaks, We Dine With Cannibals, and We Give a Squid a Wedgie are now available. The fourth, We sled with Dragons is due out in June.