CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 20 . . . . January 27, 2012
Dan Hogg is a 15-year-old on a mission. He might not be able to do much about his dorky braces or glasses, but he hopes that bulking up from his 97 pounds might make him a bit more popular with the ladies. In his mind, the connection is obvious - dress up in a hotdog suit to promote his uncle’s business and then hire a personal trainer with his wages.
Dan’s first day on the job at the Food Fantasia Fun Fair is anything but smooth. His mascot outfit is hot and unwieldy, and he’s having trouble drumming up any interest for the cold hotdog samples he’s handing out. Dan is not the most co-ordinated kid on the block (the plot is mostly fuelled by him falling over), and, when he hits the deck, he is surprised to find a pretty girl asking if he’s okay. Brooke is, in fact, the prettiest girl who has ever spoken to him, and she seems to find him funny. Later, Dan saves her from a boy she says is pestering her, and she asks if she might try out his hotdog suit for fun. It seems like a great idea until Dan is stuck in his underwear in the men’s bathroom and has to dress up in a garbage bag and, later, many layers of toilet paper, to check in on the situation. When he overhears a conversation about a mall pickpocket, he finally puts two and two together, realizing that Brooke and her friend are behind the thefts. He saves the day, which involves tackling a giant sushi roll and being tackled by a giant cupcake. The video hits YouTube, goes viral and boosts Dan’s uncle’s business.
Hold the Pickles is certainly readable, and the straightforward plot and short length make it attractive to reluctant readers. It is fairly fast-moving although, as mentioned, much of the action is caused by repeated tumbles due to the bulky frankfurter costume. Maybe this device could have been varied a bit more. The novel has a set-up and arc not unlike a television sit-com, with some funny twists and turns but very little in terms of background or character development. It also takes place within a few hours. While this time frame poses limitations as far as development goes, it really does keep things moving and the short time period is handled very deftly. Hold the Pickles, a funny novel about a less-than-cool kid, provides a worthy option for reluctant readers looking for a light but entertaining story.
Dan is a very fun character, and he’s easy to relate to. He isn’t a total loser, but he doesn’t have the advantage of being one of the beautiful people. He is a likeable “everyguy” who is just trying to get through regular life while keeping his integrity. His plight, stuck in a sweaty hotdog suit, could have been really over the top, but the novel is fairly restrained and not too slapsticky. Dan gets to learn a few things about whom to trust, and he also shows his sense of humour and ability to shrug off embarrassment. These are, perhaps, the qualities which give readers hope for his future date with the girl who was inside the sushi mascot costume.
Kris Rothstein is a children’s book agent and reviewer in Vancouver, BC.
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