Aaron Blabey, Mission Unpluckable (The Bad Guys #2), Scholastic Australia, 1 Nov 2015, 144pp., $12.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781760154127
Aaron Blabey is best known for his award winning picture books which amuse and engage both young children and adults.
In episode two of The Bad Guys he displays a talent also for writing a humorous and action-packed graphic novels. This is an excellent hi-lo (high interest, low reading level) book which is fun for anyone aged 7+, whilst being especially well suited for beginner young readers or struggling older readers.
This is a low reading level book because the story is quick and easy to read. Short sentences are scattered sparingly amongst black and white cartoon style illustrations which serve well to describe the characters and support the story.
But it is also high interest due to the original, fast paced plot and its witty humour.
The story is propelled by action and dialogue and some surprising twists in events. Mr Shark, Mr Wolf, Mr Piranha and Mr Snake are four fearsome characters with a bad reputation. They want to redeem themselves by becoming heroes who rescue animals. There is suspense and intrigue as they embark on a difficult mission to release 10 000 chickens incarcerated in tiny cages at Sunnyside Chicken Farm. They employ Legs, who is a computer hacking Tarantula spider, to mastermind a plan to circumvent the farm’s sophisticated and extensive security system. Older readers will enjoy the ironies and ambiguities of a wolf’s and a snake’s enthusiasm to break into a chicken farm.
The humour is clever, original and witty. Rather than relying on toilet humour (I counted only two bum jokes) the humour is derived from slapstick, bizarre or absurd scenarios as well as irony. Mr Snake’s “slips of the tongue”, revealing his true intensions, are very amusing. The wacky illustrations also contribute to the humour with exaggerated facial expressions, slapstick body contortions and absurd anthropomorphisms.
The paperback style of the book and the appealing, funny front cover cast this book as “cool” and suitable for older readers.
Mission Unpluckable is an excellent inducement for a reluctant reader and an enjoyable read for anyone who appreciates a playful sense of the absurd.
Reviewed by Barbara Swartz