James Rallison, The Odd 1s Out (The First Sequel), Scholastic Australia, June 2020, 224 pp., RRP $19.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760973377
This is a funny and accessible book by a young writer and humourist who knows how to appeal to the eight to twelves – especially, but not exclusively, boys. Not having read the first title (The Odd 1s Out: How to be Cool and Other Things I Definitely Learned from Growing Up), I was fooled by the first couple of chapters into thinking it was a book about writing a book (“How to pick the right font for your book” and “The problem with having the name Theodd1sout”). But it is really a book about anything that might be funny in life, or the world in general. I was pleasantly surprised to be engaged and amused by many of the topics, like “Dog training” (I’m not a dog person), and even, later in the book, “How we got our second dog, Poppy”. “Why the robot uprising wouldn’t be that bad” and “The missing mattress” both had me giggling. The book is also full of colourful cartoon style illustrations by James.
As Wikipedia tells me: “James Rallison… is an American YouTuber, animator, cartoonist, comedian, author, and voice actor. He is known for animating his story time animations on his YouTube channel TheOdd1sOut.” He is, in fact, a very successful YouTuber. Many of the chapters in his first book were based on his videos, but it seems the new book is built on new material. Although I couldn’t find a review of either book in a professional journal, and just one in a newspaper – The Times (UK) was brief and positive – there are lots of very enthusiastic young YouTuber reviews. The NovelistPlus database categorises the books as “adult books for young adults”, but I would say they are middle school books, written in the voice of a young adult (Rallison is 24), and speaking directly to that young reader as an equal. Certainly, the material is suitable for and of interest to kids. These books are, by all accounts, hugely appealing to reluctant readers. I’d recommend the Amazon user reviews to see a few parent views, both for and against. One complained of a reference to special needs kids in the first book.
But here’s the thing (as they say): Rallison’s web page (as opposed to his YouTube channel) is pure merchandise; and he’s a famous YouTuber – over 15 million subscribers. So, expect that to influence your readers (if they don’t already know him). That said, his stories have a good message at their core, and it doesn’t even read like a message. Basically, it is to be happy with who you are and to be kind to others. And he’s funny. Both books spent some weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in the category “Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous“.
Reviewed by Marita Thompson