"Will" by Adam Rex. from Guys Read: Funny Business edited by Jon Scieszka. 2010. Walden Pond Press. 268 pages. ISBN: 9780061963735
It's Will's thirteenth birthday, and he still doesn't have any special powers. His classmates are leaving school one by one for places like wizarding school and fairy academies, but Will and three other classmates remain behind with their increasingly exasperated teacher. She tries to get the day started with an assignment, but not longer after the morning announcements, a supervillain knocks down the wall to the classroom and takes everyone hostage. Though he never realizes it, Will's quick thinking and powers of deduction make him the true hero of the day.
This is one of the best children's short stories I have ever read. It has everything kids like - an underdog protagonist, superheroes, references to both Harry Potter and Magic Tree House, jokes about teachers, unexpected plot twists and a sense of humor. I first discovered it at the end of last school year, when I was searching for something to read on a fifth grade class visit. I read it again to another fifth grade class just recently, and both groups deemed the story "awesome" and broke out into applause at the end. Adam Rex's tongue-in-cheek tone talks to kids on their level, and the fact that almost the entire story is propelled by the actions of kids keeps them interested even as the story gets a bit lengthy. The surprises of the story are spread out throughout the text, so there is always an opportunity to renew the kids' interest every few pages. It's also helpful to read the story with no commentary at all at the beginning. It works best if they just settle in with no idea what's coming.
My favorite character, aside from Will, is the supervillain whose cartoonishly evil personality is just right for kids raised on comic books and Cartoon Network. Not only is it fun to watch the kids fight him off, it's just as fun to laugh at his weakness and foolishness, and his dialogue is truly brilliant, as is most of the dialogue throughout the story.
This short story is a good one for fans of Adam Rex, of course, as well as of authors like Tom Angleberger, Louis Sachar, and Gordon Korman, and for kids who love graphic novels and superhero comics. Though it's a guaranteed hit with boys, it also resonates with girls who tend to gasp loudly at the most exciting moments and who laugh at some of the jokes the boys miss while they're wrapped up in the action.
I borrowed Guys Read: Funny Business from my local public library. (I also have an ARC in my personal collection, courtesy of Walden Pond Press.)
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