Thursday 24 May 2012

Review: Barry Loser: I Am Not A Loser by Jim Smith

I've never minded that my name's Barry Loser because my coolness has always cancelled it out, but ever since Darren Darrenofski joined school with his horrible little crocodile face he's been completely ruining my life about it. "I Am Not A Loser" is the first of three notebooks belonging to Barry Loser. Follow Barry as he tries throw off his loserness, take revenge on the terrible Fronkle-burping Darren Darrenofski and finally become a winner.

Any phenomenonly successful series naturally leads to a host of imitators. Harry Potter led to a plethora of titles set in magical worlds with witches and wizards. Horowitz's Alex Rider series opened the floodgates to a tide of teen agents. In the last few years we have now seen the same happen as a result of the popularity of Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I'm not criticising this at all - if a formula is found to be successful at getting kids to read then shared use of it can only be a good thing as long as quality is maintained.

Barry Loser: I Am Not A Loser is the latest of these Wimpy Kid-style books to hit the market. It is told in the words of the eponymous Barry Loser, a kid who despite his terrible surname has never suffered any problems at school because his "coolness has always cancelled it". However, the arrival of new kid Darren Darrenofski changes all of this, and through one playground incident Barry is instantly stripped of his coolness. The book follows his various misguided attempts to regain his coolness (or keelness as Barry and his best friend Bunky prefer to call it) and thus his popularity, presented as a series of vignettes which are guaranteed to make you laugh and cringe in equal measures.

What I loved most about this book is that Barry is not a particularly nice child. In fact, he is very much like a large number of pupils I have taught over the years. Kids who act very silly and annoying, and occasionally mean, but become popular because they make other kids laugh (often at the expense of others). And like in this book, sometimes another cooler kid has come along and suddenly the tables are turned. As such I didn't find myself sympathising with Barry's situation, but instead could laugh along at his cringeworthy attempts to be cool again. Stuff like going to school stilts, and wearing a bright yellow knitted woollen nose piece (supposedly in tribute to his favourite TV character, Future Ratboy).

As with other books like this Barry Loser is made a much easier read by the number of Jim Smith's illustrations throughout. In fact, there is a drawing on just about every page, and not a great deal of text either, and so even the most reluctant of readers can fly though the 230+ pages relatively quickly. I see how popular the Wimpy Kid books are with our reluctant reader 11 and 12 year olds at school, and therefore even though this is aimed at the 7+ age group I will be ordering a copy for the school library. I feel the level of toilet humour will make it a sure fire hit (oh how they love to read about poos, farts and bogies).

Barry Loser: I Am Not A Loser is published by Egmont today and my thanks go to the publishers for sending me a copy to review.

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