Welcome to my brand new review feature! I have thoughtfully titled it the “Five Things I’ve Learned” review and within it I will (in rather obvious fashion) reveal five things I have discovered while reading the featured book! It’s going to be great.
The books I have chosen are particularly topical at this moment, given that the first test against India has just started as I am writing this and the co-author of the featured books, David Warner, is currently sitting on 77 from 73 balls. If you have absolutely no understanding of my previous sentence, then I am guessing that you know very little about the sport of cricket. Or, perhaps, you can’t stand cricket. Never fear intrepid readers, if you are part of the former group these tomes will introduce you to the sport, and if you are in the second group (of which I am a card carrying member) keep and open mind as you read on.
So today’s offering is the first two books in a new series for 8 – 12 year olds, The Kaboom Kid by David Warner, J.V. McGee and Jules Faber. These are the next in a current trend for pairing a famous sports person with an author to create series of books that kids – and particularly boys – will enjoy. The AFL did it. Rugby League has just popped out a series featuring Billy Slater (QUEENSLANDER!) and now Cricket Australia are at it. The books feature loveable larrikin Davey Warner, who loves cricket and can’t get by without his beloved bat Kaboom, his best friend Sunil, and his stinky dog Max.
Let us stride confidently onto the pitch and face the first two balls from this new sporty series, shall we? *Richie Benaud impersonations optional*:
The Big Switch:
Davey Warner and his grade six friends are mad for cricket and just want to play it every moment of the day. His team has a big game coming up against arch-rivals, Shimmer Bay, so they need to get in all the practice they can. But when the boys end up in Mr Mudge’s class for this year they know they’ll have to tread carefully – old Mudge hates cricket and won’t allow any mention of it in his classroom. After a run in with class bully Mo Clouter leaves Davey in detention, it looks like all his practice time will be taken up picking up rubbish. But Davey’s got a brand new trick up his sleeve that he thinks might win them the big match – if only he could get time to practise!
Davey doesn’t mind practising with his big brother Steve, provided Steve gives up on his constant stream of advice about how Davey can improve his technique. But Davey will put up with it for now – the selectors for the representative side are coming to Sandhill Flats and Davey wants to make sure that he and his lucky bat Kaboom give a performance that will impress. When Davey plays a silly stunt in the classroom and Mr Mudge confiscates Kaboom, all his hopes of impressing the selectors goes up in smoke. Davey cheers up a bit when Steve asks him to play up in the older boys’ team, but without Kaboom, Davey will probably mess that up too. But Davey hasn’t counted on his teammates ability to band together when the chips are down.
Ah, cricket. The gentlemans’ game. The game that inexplicably requires players to stand for hours in the blazing, sunburn-inducing, melanoma-causing, sweaty, sweaty heat of an Australian summer. Really, who’s idea was the last bit? Surely we would be better off playing cricket in winter. Anyway, you may have guessed by now that I am not the greatest fan of the game of cricket as a spectator sport. I don’t mind playing it, but watching it is akin to having one’s skin peeled off in 1cm strips by teeny tiny wallpaper scrapers. In my opinion, anyway.
I actually got sucked into these books!
I willingly read the first and quite happily picked up the second to continue Davey’s adventures. And you know what? They actually turned out to be pretty fun little holiday reads! Amazing! So here’s…..
Five Things I’ve Learned From….
The Kaboom Kid #1 and #2
1. Cricket is far more interesting to read about than to watch
2. The Australian selectors should probably consider including dogs as specialist fielders to improve the test side’s performance
3. Playing by the rules on the cricket pitch is non-negotiable. Playing by the rules in the classroom however, is entirely optional
4. A grumpy old teacher is almost always going to have a hidden passion for some obscure sport or activity that they will then attempt to force upon their students (possibly in response to learning #2)
5. It is actually possible to love cricket so much that you want to play it all the time…although as this is a work of fiction, I’m still not entirely convinced of this
Davey reads like a modern day Ginger Meggs, and the multicultural friendships and the feeling of the cricket lovers being “misunderstood” reminded me very much of that other Australian award-winning, cricket-based children’s novel, NIPS XI by Ruth Starke. There’s a lot in the books that kids will enjoy – the boys get up to all kinds of hijinks and Davey’s stinky dog Max provides a plenty of comic relief. I was a bit put off (having sat on the shelf of a few teachers in my time) by the casual blackmail applied by Davey’s team mates to his teacher Mr Mudge, in order to get back a bat that had been confiscated as a punishment for Davey breaking the rules in class. Not quite sure what Warner is suggesting here, but one would have hoped that fair play in life is just as important as fair play on the cricket pitch. I suspect kids won’t be beating themselves up over the ethics of that one, though.
The chapters and paragraphs are short and well-spaced and there are illustrations throughout, so the books are visually quite appealing, and not too overwhelming for younger or struggling readers. The Aussie flavour and slang of the books will resonate nicely with those looking for a read from down our way and I found that you don’t have to know too much about cricket to be able to follow the action in the games. (*Pointed aside* In fact, the whole first book is based around a trick shot from Davey that I thought was against the rules of cricket. I have since discussed this with others who are more knowledgeable about the sport than I, and they agreed. But unless David Warner contributed nothing to this book but his name on the cover, one would assume that they would have got the rules of the game right and therefore we are all wrong. Input on this would be welcome from others who’ve read the book).
If you’ve got a cricket-mad (or just generally sports-mad) young person around your dwelling who is wandering around bleating about being bored this holidays, I can heartily recommend these first two of the Kaboom Kid series. They’re quick reads that won’t cause any headaches from requiring too much, and will return plenty of enjoyment.
And they’re completely sun-safe. (Provided you read them in the shade. Or while wearing a broad-brimmed hat).
And they’d fit nicely in a Christmas stocking.
I received a copy of these books (without even having to ask! They must have assumed that with a name like Bruce it would be unAustralian for me not to enjoy cricket) from Simon and Schuster Australia in return for an honest review.
Until next time,