Splashy Weird! (Weir Do, #11)

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Anh Do, Splashy Weird! (Weir Do, #11),  Scholastic Australia, September 2018, 160 pp., RRP $15.99, ISBN 9781742993751

Fans of the wildly popular Weir Do series will be delighted by this new instalment chronicling Weir’s experience at the Australian institution: the school swimming carnival. Splashy Weird! isn’t about a sporting prodigy or even a sporting devotee – Weir actively schemes to avoid attending, but the classic mysterious rash and other tricks are to no avail.

Making the best of it, Weir immerses himself in the Green Team cheer squad. When Weir learns he will receive a point just for participating in a race, he decides to have a go at freestyle.

Students who dread the swimming carnival will share Weir’s reluctance, and nod along to his description of being slower than a sea slug. Weir is a very likeable character and the message about having a go comes across as authentic rather than preachy or contrived.

I wouldn’t say that Weir overcomes his fears – by the end of this instalment, Weir has not developed a passion for swimming – but his commitment to helping the Green Team is endearing. The comic asides about Weir’s family are wonderful, and the black and white sketches (by Jules Faber) perfectly complement the book’s comedic tone.

The book is paced to perfection, and the narrative flows naturally through Weir’s internal monologues, such as: “Maybe I could at least go in one race…and get a point for my team. Win or lose, it wouldn’t matter…I’d still be helping.”

The layout is good, with different fonts and styles utilised to support the narrative; it is well done and the styling does not detract from the readability.

I took Splashy Weird! along to a family event to get some feedback from my younger cousins, and there was a literal uproar over the new Anh Do – several kids (boys and girls aged between 8–14) argued over who would get to read it first. The lucky winners provided some great insights: “Very funny, I liked that he was scared but he still has a go and believes in himself. The illustrations are cute.” (Francesca, 10) and “Very good and very funny … all Weir Do books are good.” (Xavier, 14).

I was also informed that readers who enjoy the Andy Griffiths “Treehouse” books will enjoy the Weir Do series, and that the recommended ages should be 3–13 (I would suggest around 8 years old for independent readers, but I liked the enthusiasm). Overall, I was taken aback by the reaction to the book – there was a real buzz and excitement. But more importantly, they all loved the book – Scholastic has another Weir Do winner!

Reviewed by Jessica Dowling

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