Tristan Bancks (text), Gus Gordon (illus.), My Life and Other Weaponised Muffins (My Life #5), Random House Australia, 27 Feb 2017 , 194pp., $15.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780143781066
This 5th book in the My Life series written by Tristan Bancks is a romp of boyish humour and fun. Interspersed between the text are amusing cartoon style drawings by Gus Gordon.
Each chapter is a separate short story or list of ephemeral ideas in the voice of the protagonist, Tom Weekly. Tom is a boisterous fun loving upper primary age boy who loves food, jokes and mucking around with his friends. The stories do the usual round of fart jokes, grossness, awkward moments in front of the “cool, tough kids”, an eccentric, frail, old Nan who is more reckless and badly behaved than the kids, and a teacher who the kids love to hate. In a few instances the content is so nauseating that I couldn’t read it. For example, I didn’t read past the first item in the list of “What would you rather do?” which reads “Drink a tablespoon of bright yellow pus or eat 13 fresh scabs”. Not suitable for middle aged women with sensibilities of politeness, such as myself! But judging by bestseller lists and library loans stats, this series is very popular with boys in the 8-11 age group.
I do admit to having enjoyed some of the chapters. I found myself quite concerned for Tom’s Mum when she enters into a confrontation with the much maligned and bad tempered school principal, Mr Skroop, who refuses her offering of a sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free (and clearly somewhat solid) muffin. I also chuckled reading the chapter in which Tom makes elaborate plans to kiss Sasha, and instead ends up having to avoid Natalie’s amorous advances. The chapter in which Tom fakes illness to get off doing a maths test was fun too. And mostly, I loved the addition of a child’s award winning story about getting toffee stuck in her mouth.
I expect that my disapproval of the coarse humour in the book would add to the sense of irreverence and cheekiness that the boys enjoy in reading it. Overall, I think that if My Life books get boys into reading and improving their literacy (especially if they are reluctant readers), then the series deserves a Guernsey.
Reviewed by Barbara Swartz