Matt Stanton, Funny Kid: Next Level, ABC Books, December 2020, 176 pp., RRP $4.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780733340895
Booster is the new video game keeping the kids of Redhill Middle School from sleep, so much so that one kid falls asleep on the school toilet. Funny kid Max wants to make it to the top of the leader board, but first he has to convince his parents to increase his screen time, and then he has to stop Abby Purcell, who’ll “probably turn out to be the bad guy in this book”, from ruining his plans.
Funny Kid: Next Level is a shorter, cheaper story in Matt Stanton’s much-loved Funny Kid series, tucked in between books 4 & 5. Aimed at a middle-grade readership, these books have been making kids laugh and engaging reluctant readers for several years now. Funny Kid: Next Level is a fast-paced adventure, infused with kid-humour that will also make adults chuckle. Not only is there toilet humour, it literally begins with a scene in the school toilets! Max is also smart and quick thinking, even when his schemes don’t quite go to plan.
The chapters are bite-sized and the amount of text on each page varies, ensuring readers aren’t put off by too much text. It also uses cartoon illustrations and speech bubbles to make reading more fun and to enhance understanding. At the end, there is also a sample preview of the next book in the series, designed to hook kids and encourage them to keep reading. And the step-by-step lesson for drawing Max and Duck is also a great bonus.
The one criticism I have of this book is the use of ableist language such as, ”crazy”, “psycho” and “lame”, along with a fat-phobic, stereo-typed character description that occurs in a sample of the next book. I hold the view that even if this kind of language is still being used in the playground, writers have a responsibility to model better choices of language and avoid perpetuating outdated tropes such as the fat, glasses-wearing, not-very-bright sidekick.
This book would suit early independent and reluctant readers, or anyone who likes a laugh.
Reviewed by Bec Blakeney