No matter the sport, Steve, middle schooler at Spiro T. Agnew Middle School, is the undisputed King of the Bench.
Steve and his friends, diminutive and cryptically psychic Joey and gassy, big-boned Carlos, like sports but aren’t interested in the prospect of being tackled. They prefer to watch their local NFL “doormat” team, the Goodfellow Goons, practice, sharing the bleachers with superfan Billionaire Bill, who lives in the stadium. Bill offers Steve an ancient Nintendo 64 controller in exchange for Steve’s Eskimo Pie, along with the advice “Control your own life.” After several experiments, Steve discovers that the controller seems to control people. When star athlete Jimmy Jimerino tricks the trio into volunteering for the sparsely populated school football team, Steve uses the controller to give the Mighty Plumbers a winning season, but each time he uses it someone gets hurt. Is the controller magic? Cursed? Will Steve ever leave the bench? Cartoonist Moore’s second in the series features more of his scratchy cartoons and some goofy, sometimes-gross laughs. The story arc is predictable, but it’s peppered with “Quick Time Outs” explaining school and sports subjects with hyperbolically wry humor. Inept sports fans will identify with Steve and his buddies and wish for their own N64 controllers. As in the previous book, diversity is communicated with naming conventions, including a tired joke about a Hawaiian student’s long name.
This won’t “fry everyone’s burgers,” but its audience exists. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-11)