CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 14 . . . . March 7, 2008
Splat! (Orca Currents).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2008.
110 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55143-986-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55143-988-4 (hc.).
Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.
Review by Lindsay Schluter.
Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.
I picked up one of the tomatoes. It was so over-ripe it was squishy and soft to the touch. My fingers sunk in, almost breaking the skin. I tossed it a few inches into the air and caught it again. Nice weight. Nice.
Keegan still had his back to me. There was a slight wind – left to right – so I’d have to take that into account. I drew my arm back and threw the tomato. It flew through the air, slightly spiraling, toward him and – Splat! It smashed right into the back of his head and exploded into a thousand pieces of pulp!
The saying goes, “If life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” But, if you’re handed a crate full of soft, squishy, oozing tomatoes, it is hard to resist making anything but a huge mess in an all-out tomato fight.
Of course, not everyone agrees…..however, when 15-year-old Alex and his friend Keegan are forced to volunteer at the annual Leamington Tomato Festival, they can’t help but add a bit of spice to the festival’s all-too-traditional tomato toss. Surely, throwing a tomato at a moving target is much more fun than throwing it at a boring old piece of cardboard – but then again, nothing beats the thrill of throwing a tomato at an unsuspecting moving target. When Keegan sees the Festival’s Marching Band walk by, he gives in to temptation and decides to throw a tomato at Owen, his ex-girlfriend’s tuba-playing sweetheart. Almost immediately, the Tomato Festival is turned into little-Tomatina, and nearly everyone in sight is pulverized with pulp – including Alex’s father, the town’s Chief of Police. Keegan and Alex fully expect to be handed the punishment of a lifetime, but when the Leamington Tomato Festival is given high praise on the International News, punishment fades to gratitude……at least until it is time to clean up the mess.
In what is Eric Walters’ juiciest story yet, Splat! meets every criteria of the popular “Orca Current’s” series mandate. It is a quick-read at only 110 pages; it is of high interest at a low reading level; and above all, it is undeniably contemporary with references to CSI, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and even Leamington Idol. The laid-back, skateboard-loving characters of Keegan and Alex will undoubtedly appeal to the male teen reader; however, moral-seeking adults may be somewhat uncomfortable with just how much this mischievous-duo actually gets away with (including an, admittedly amusing portapotty pushover).
Simple in structure, the novel follows a strictly linear plot. We are not weighed down by endless detail or description, and we are not made to meander through a maze in getting to the end of the book. In this way, reluctant readers will be sure to devour every chapter. Although, it may take some convincing to get them to pick it up in the first place – the novel’s cover is somewhat unappealing due its one-dimensional colour scheme, plain lettering, and overall “home-made” appearance.
Despite these image issues, Orca books are truly a mainstay of every library, and with Eric Walters behind the wheel, Splat! is surely going to satisfy even the pickiest eater, or rather, the pickiest reader.
Lindsay Schluter is a student of Library and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia.
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