I discovered this series through my nine-year-old. I pick up books for him to look at, ones that I hope will catch his eye. We are now reading the Charlie Bone series and the Alex Rider series, and I thought –- given the number of pictures throughout the Wiley And Grampa #4: Super Soccer Freak Show — that he’d find it an easy read.
Sitting at the doctor’s, waiting, we quietly read our books. But only for a short while. Then he started giggling, and finally cracked up and howled in glee. Before I knew it, he was insisting on reading the book to me. That hasn’t happened before.
So I folded my book and I listened. He read for an hour before he finished it, pointing out the wordplay and the comic visual images. (Merle the cat was his favorite.) I have to admit that I was cracking up too. Guys have a tendency to never outgrow that juvenile funny bone, much to the dismay of their moms and wives.
The book is told in the first person. Wiley relates the tale of the school team’s journey to Carpathia Elementary School for a soccer game. (The books are set in Texas, where the author illustrator Kirk Scroggs is from. I’ve been to Texas on several occasions, but I’ve never seen Carpathia County. From the pictures, I know that it looks a lot like Transylvania!)
While at the soccer game, Grampa gets into a fight with the other team’s mascot. As it turns out, that’s something he does every time, and he has restraining orders from other games. Part of the humor of these books is seeing how far Grampa will go to get into trouble, despite Wiley and Gramma’s best efforts to keep him from it. But something goes horribly wrong this time.
The mascot bites Grampa and he turns into a werewolf the very next full moon. Wiley doesn’t know what to do. The dogcatcher can’t catch Grampa and the ladies’ sewing circle that Gramma takes him to turns out to be octogenarian Buffys. They whip out their crossbows and get ready to nail Grampa’s hide to the barn. Not exactly the kind of help Gramma and Wiley went there looking for.
My son and I were dying laughing as we looked at the sewing circle ladies all decked out and ready to go kick monster butt. (I really think Scroggs should think about doing a book about them. I know we’d read it.)
Finally, though, Wiley discovers that the only way to save Grampa is for the soccer team to return to Carpathian Elementary and beat them in a rematch. But that’s impossible! Isn’t it?
The illustrations are a riot, providing plenty of visual humor in every situation. As soon as my son finished reading the book to me, he sat down and read it again, analyzing the pictures and finding new things he’d missed the first time through. Scroggs really outdid himself on the art, because it’s layered with shenanigans.
The writing is truly awesome too, filled with wordplay directed at kids and adults alike. There are several jokes that kids won’t get but parents will.
I really recommend these books to school libraries and public libraries. They come out in hardcover and paperback at the same time. Parents who have reluctant readers at home, especially boys, are encouraged to get one of these books and put it in that kid’s hands. Read a few pages with him or her and they’ll be hooked. You may find yourself hooked as well!