Many children struggle with reading. Some are reluctant to read; others attain reading readiness later than their peers. For these kids, novels must grab their attention and keep it, with a fast-paced story they can relate to.
Oddball, by Janeen Brian, is just such a book. Published by Walker Books Australia in 2008, it's part of a series called Lightning Strikes, designed to support and motivate those kids who've somehow missed out on the joy of reading. The cover is eye-catching, and the format very cleverly designed with lots of white space and larger print. I think boys in particular will love Oddball.
"It was the worst Monday morning ever." Sol Tranter's beloved dog has just died, his mum insists he must get his Afro hair cut, and he somehow finds himself challenging the school bully and sporting hero to a game of handball. And promising to win by using hypnosis! Is there anything at all Sol can do to get out of this mess?
Sol's voice is so authentic, it's as if he's perched on the kitchen table relating his tale between eager bites of Vegemite sandwich. Janeen Brian definitely understands boys - she puts the reader right inside Sol's bushy head, so we feel what he feels, and see the world through his eyes. We're impelled to race to the next page to find out what happens.
Oddball is a great choice for kids who like realistic stories they can relate to. I believe children in senior primary or early high school classes would enjoy following up questions like "Have you ever made a problem for yourself through something you said?" "Do people really do strange things when they're hypnotised?" "How does hypnosis work?" and "How did things change for Sol in the story?" The book would make a great model for children writing a narrative centred around a problem to be solved.