Susan Berran Suck’d (Freaky #6) JoJo Publishing, March 2015, 167pp; $16.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9780987609632
Suck’d is my first encounter with Susan Berran’s Freaky Series. It is the sixth book in the series and a seventh is on the way. Clearly, the series is hitting a mark.
On her website, Berran describes herself as a children’s literacy advocate who ‘loves encouraging kids to read and write, particularly those reluctant readers so close to moving on to high school yet not at the required reading level’. In the Freaky Series, Berran seeks to draw in those ‘reluctant readers’ with scatological humour, mixed typefaces, smudged and blackened page borders, and occasional narrative asides aimed directly at the reader.
Suck’d is narrated by Sam, a city boy now relocated to the country with his mum and his baby sister (aka Little Miss Food and Fart Factory Melly). This is how the book opens: ‘Life sucks! It’s been a sucky day, every day of this sucky week! And today has been the suckiest of all the sucky days of the whole suckfest of a week on this big sucky planet in the whole sucktackular universe!’
You’ve probably gathered that Sam is one angry boy. His best mate (and partner in prankster crime), Jared, is sick. Jared’s absence from school for a full week ruins the boys’ joint plans for their ongoing campaign of annoying, aggravating and generally destabilising their classmates. Sam is unable, for instance, to fire ‘poop pellets’ (guinea pig droppings) from his Super Secret Phantasmagorical Ultimate Dead-Eye Dart Gun or to release fungus-infested toenails from his Single Shot Bug Flunger. (Because Jared becomes ill en route to school on Monday morning, the boys are at least able to get in one game of ‘I Know What You Ate before It became an Awesome Pile of Puke’.)
Sam’s rage seems to stem from his removal from his city home. He is unimpressed with the ‘sheep huggers’ and ‘cow cuddlers’ who inhabit rural Agnath, and thinks ‘Neanderthal caveman had a bigger vocabulary than some locals’. He takes great delight in ridiculing his ‘greenie’ teacher, Miss Forest, and in disparaging Itchy Mitch’s jumpers, hand knitted by Mitch’s mother, which he suspects are made from ‘wool off their very own crappy sheep’.
If you think Sam’s frustrating school week, rich with insults, boogas and barfing, will tickle the funny bone of reluctant (and other) readers, then this is the book for you; if not, you’ve been warned.
Recommended for ages 8+
reviewed by Tessa Wooldridge