The Lunch Lady books are a new series of graphic novels for early elementary school readers. They're aimed at the same audience that's been gobbling up the Babymouse series, though the Lunch Lady books are a bit less, well, pink. The palette is an easy-on-the-eyes combination of yellow, black, white, and gray. But the important thing is that these books are a lot of fun! I mean, what right-minded elementary school kid could resist the premise that the lunch lady is a secret crime-fighter? Or the idea that the substitute teacher is actually a cyborg? Go ahead. Ask the closest 8-year-old, and come back if you find them intrigued.
Back? OK. On to the reviews. The first book in Jarrett J. Krosoczka's Lunch Lady series is Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute. This small-format graphic novel introduces our hero, Lunch Lady and her tech support sidekick Betty. Lunch Lady rides a motorscooter, wears a yellow apron and yellow rubber gloves, and has a gadget-filled hideout in the boiler room. When you set the fridge in the kitchen to "coldest", it slides over to the side, revealing a hidden staircase down to the hideout. Betty's clever inventions range from the "milk-cam" to the "lunch tray laptop" to the "spork phone". My favorite, though, is the not-to-be-missed "Spatu-coper". Although she keeps a watchful eye on things at her school, Lunch Lady does, as you would expect, care deeply about food, too. She's constantly using expressions like "I'm on him like cheese on macaroni!" and "Good gravy!".
In the first book, a popular teacher is unexpectedly out sick, replaced by an enormous, oddly formal teacher. Suspiciously, he turns down fresh cookies! As Lunch Lady begins investigating the substitute, three friends (known collectively as the Breakfast Bunch) decide to learn more about Lunch Lady. A dangerous conflict ensues (think chicken nugget bombs and attacking robots). There's also a sub-plot involving the Breakfast Bunch's interaction with a bully. The blending of school cafeteria dynamics and clever spy tools had me giggling. I imagine that kids will love it, too. The Breakfast Bunch kids (Hector, Dee, and Terrence) have regular problems, mixed in with their dangerous cyborg encounter. I think that young readers will be able to relate to them.
Book 2 has a great title: Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians. In this installment, a league of power-mad librarians uses the book fair as a cover for an evil plan. It's up to Lunch Lady and the Breakfast Bunch to stop them. I must admit that I found it a little disturbing to read about librarians as bad guys. But I did like the names that Krosoczka used for the librarians: Rhonda Page, Edna Bibliosa, Vivian Bookwormer, and Jane Shelver.
Book 2 includes a bit of character development for Dee, Terrence, and Hector, as well as some new spy tools for Lunch Lady. I loved the hover pizzas. School bully Milmoe remains a thorn in everyone's side, adding a nice second layer to the story. I was also entertained to notice that the janitor (Mr. Kalowski) has a Massachusetts accent, a fun little in-joke from a Mass-based author ("Yah kids had bettah staht headin' home"). There's also a continuing gag whereby lunch lady Betty offers to put gravy on everything (even pizza! Yuck!).
In short, these books are pure fun, perfect for both new readers and older reluctant readers. I would classify them as a must-purchase for elementary school libraries.
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 28, 2009
Source of Book: Review copies from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Every Day Is Like Wednesday, Read About Comics, The Reading Zone, Book Aunt, The Excelsior File, Bookie Woogie, 100 Scope Notes, Miss Erin, and others.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.