Author: Bill Myers
The Incredible Worlds of Wally McDoogle, vol. 3
My rating: 3 of 5
Wally and his pals Wall Street and Opera get the chance to take a trip out to visit Wall Street’s older brother . . . which would be super cool and fun, except for the fact that her brother has forsworn the faith of his family and chosen a lifestyle that his family definitely doesn’t approve of. Which makes the whole trip just a bit AWKWARD. And of course, any given day isn’t complete without Wally’s notorious clumsiness and dorkiness getting him into some kind of trouble. So, naturally, when you expose him to great stuff like hot air balloon races, mad bulls, and the great outdoors, disaster is bound to strike. But somewhere in the midst of all the craziness, Wally and his friends may just find out what trusting God is really all about.
As I’ve mentioned before, this is a classic series that I’ve loved since I was a kid, and My Life as a Broken Bungee Cord definitely continues the trends of the first two volumes of the series. You’ve got a hilarious, slapstick story that’s just good fun but that has distinctive spiritual and moral undertones that are fleshed out through the experiences the characters go through. Plus, the tone of writing in Wally’s voice is just too funny. I think this particular volume isn’t my favorite just because there’s too much of a dichotomy. I mean, in this series, there’s always that contrast between the humor and the actual point the author’s trying to make. But in this book, between the arguments Wall Street’s family have and the weight of the whole turning away from the faith thing, it just gets pretty dark (for a light-hearted middle-grade story, I mean), and it just doesn’t seem to fit–or rather, the slapstick seems an awkward fit in comparison. Still, My Life as a Broken Bungee Cord is definitely a good Christian middle-grade story that I would recommend.
Author: Bill Myers
The Incredible Worlds of Wally McDoogle, vol. 2
My rating: 4 of 5
It’s every kid’s dream, right? Get chosen to be in a movie, and instantly transform from all-school reject to everyone’s new best friend? When uber-klutz Wally McDoogle manages to land a role in an up-and-coming monster movie, his life certainly undergoes an extreme transformation. About the only person who doesn’t treat him differently is his best friend Opera . . . only Wally’s pretty sure he’s too cool to be seen around Opera anymore. The nerdiness may be catching, after all. But when the filming goes haywire (as it is so prone to do around him), Wally finds out just how valuable true friendship is–and how fleeting those “friendships” based on fame.
As with the first book in this series (My Life as a Smashed Burrito with Extra Hot Sauce), My Life as Alien Monster Bait is a great Christian middle-grade story that manages to teach important lessons without being stuffy or “preachy” in the slightest. Between Wally’s escapades, the offbeat stories he writes, and the quirky first-person writing, you’ve got a story that’s absurdly funny (even to an adult, but even more so as a kid). But in the midst of the humor, you’ve got some excellent lessons on pride, true friendship, and that more challenging concept to nail down–not treating people differently just because they have more fame or money or coolness points or whatever. Myers brings us a blatantly Christian story with solid life lessons . . . that’s also immensely enjoyable and laugh-inducing. Definitely recommended.
Author: Stephen R. Lawhead
A childhood of being allowed to do basically whatever he wanted, relying on his father’s wealth and position, have left Succat a typical patrician youth: frequently drinking too much, with no particular aim in life, and frankly bored with life, yet determined to live his life entirely for himself. Much changed the day the Irish raiders came to his town, leaving the area decimated and taking Succat back to Eire with them as a slave. In the small village, he finds himself beneath the very people he had regarded his entire life as barbarians. And even while raging at his position and trying desperately to escape back to England, he discovers that these people really aren’t that different from the people back home. He even manages to fall in love. Still, it will take more than that to bring Succat to the point where he can truly care about anyone other than himself–but God has great plans for this arrogant youth, plans Succat couldn’t have ever imagined.
I love Stephen Lawhead’s writing, and Patrick is one that I’ve come back to re-read multiple times over. This is a biographical fiction of the life of St. Patrick, starting from his youth and going all the way to his return to Ireland, years later. It’s an incredible story, and Lawhead’s treatment of it is brilliant. Succat (later Patrick) is a fascinating character–in many ways quite despicable, yet easy to relate to and enjoyable to read. The plot is character driven and yet also a glorious envisioning of the work of Providence in the life of an individual. I admit, the book is rather a big bite to chew–it’s over 450 pages, and the writing style is dense, packing a great deal of plot, character development, and description into each page. It’s well worth the work to read, though; Patrick is definitely a recommended read, particularly for historical and biographical fiction fans.
Author: Bill Myers
In a dream, Wally McDoogle is invited by a snazzy-dressing angel to a birthday party . . . for Jesus! When he wakes up, Wally does what he does best: fluster and bumble about causing mass chaos and maximum disaster. Unsure if the dream was for real, but unwilling to take the chance, Wally sets out to find the perfect gift . . . with a little help from his two best friends, Wall Street and Opera. Outcome: Mayhem, check. Perfect gift, not so much.
In the spirit of the season, I’m featuring a Christmas story this time. Not exactly your typical heartwarming, tear-jerking sort of story though. Although you may cry–from laughing too hard. As with all of Wally’s stories, My Life as Reindeer Roadkill is filled with hyperbolic humor, chaos, blunder . . . and a cool nugget of truth, ’cause y’know, you’ve got to have some sort of balance, right? This particular volume is a bit more direct (and blatantly Christian) about the message than some of the series, yet it still avoids being didactic or annoying about it. This story is particularly recommended for middle-school guys with a strong sense of humor, but also for anyone in need of a laugh over the chaos we make of the holidays–because the McDoogle family has it worse than you do!
Author: Bill Myers
What’s the harm in one little lie, right? Wally McDoogle finds out the hard way as his innocent little fib to one of his best friends snowballs. One disaster follows another, and soon Wally has the news, the school bully, the law, AND some save-the-snails terrorists all out to get him and the jar of pink gunk (presumed nuclear material) he’s toting around with him. Will he ever find out what the pink stuff actually is? Will he survive this exhausting escapade? Will the author ever tire of asking silly questions? Find out in this volume of hilarious mayhem. Or something.
I first discovered “The Incredible Worlds of Wally McDoogle” series when I was in middle school and have relied on them whenever I desperately needed a laugh ever since. Wally is the nerdy kid you’d hate to be, and his life is like one big disaster zone, but he describes the escalating madness in such humorous, overblown terms that it’s absolutely hilarious. The writing style Bill Myers uses is pretty unique, in a good way. (It’s kind of scary, re-reading this book, to see how much he’s influenced my own writing style!) Added to that, the story is clean and has a good moral lesson, but avoids being didactic about it. My Life as Dinosaur Dental Floss is recommended, particularly for late-elementary and middle-school readers, but also for anyone who just needs to let go and laugh.