How can a boy with no talent win a talent show?
Living with his single dad, Newell spends his days clowning around with his friends and avoiding his principal, Mr. Todd. After Newell misses a number of classes, Mr. Todd threatens that one more missed class will land him in summer school. When the inevitable happens, Newell is crushed. However, Mr. Todd throws him an implausible curveball: If Newell participates in the school talent show, he may be pardoned from the horror of spending his summer at school. After trying out a number of performance options, Newell realizes that he might not have any talents: How is he supposed to pull this off? This graphic offering hits all the notes young readers would expect in their humorous middle-grade fare: heaps of fart and puke jokes, a quick pace, and an upbeat ending alongside recognizably styled, brightly colored comic illustrations. Unfortunately, it feels a bit boilerplate with its unrelenting peppy tone, campy antics, and well-worn tropes. Newell’s nemesis is a know-it-all girl whose nefarious plotting predictably backfires, ultimately helping him. Newell and most of the other characters depicted present white, though Newell’s best friend, Collin, is a boy of color. Despite its overarching derivative feel, this should find an easy readership among fans of James Patterson’s I Funny or Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid.
This graphic offering has definite mainstream appeal but is all too familiar. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)