I am so excited and honoured to be one of this year’s Lollies champions, I am even more excited that I get to be David Solomons’ champion as I’ve been a huge fan of his hilarious (and award-wining) superhero series since the release of its very first instalment, ‘My Brother is a Superhero.’ I’m also beyond excited that we have a brilliant blog post from David about superheroes and funny books AND an awesome book bundle giveaway!
The Lollies (The Laugh Out Loud 2017 Book Awards) are the brainchild of legend Michael Rosen and super-publisher Scholastic, and were intended both to fill the void left by the ending of the Roald Dahl Funny Book Prize and to promote the beloved-by-readers-but-often-overlooked-for-rewards humorous children’s books. There’s a Picture Book, 6-8 Year Old, and 9-13 Year Old category where parents, teachers, children and librarians are encouraged to vote for the title which made them ‘lol’ the hardest.
There is some VERY fierce competition within the categories, but I am here to shout about the scintillating second book in the superhero series,’My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord.‘
Now I don’t know about you, but I was never a massive fan of P.E. at school and did pause to wonder (at times) if, in fact, my teacher was possessed by some kind of evil being. This being the case, I was fully on-board when Luke started to believe his sadistic gym teacher was actually an evil alien entity. However, everyone else was unconvinced and Luke’s plan to prove her double-identity seriously backfired.
With Luke’s superhero brother, Zack (aka Star Lad) off saving the world (or at least Bromley) with his superhero buddy, Dark Flutter, it’s up to Luke to save the day when his suspicions are partially confirmed and he’s zapped aboard an alien spaceship shaped like his own personal nightmare – school! Can he defeat the alien ‘Sue-Dunham’s’ and cancel their intergalactic reality show? Or will Earth be condemned to be the next planet to be seized in the name of entertainment?
What I love about these books is the clever balance of the marvellous and the mundane – superheroes shopping in Primark? Having to rest for an hour to recharge your ‘electricity’ power? These little touches help lighten a superhero genre which can sometimes take itself a little seriously. I did wonder if the clever comic book in-jokes hinted at a child/adulthood comic obsession for the author, David Solomons, but his exclusive blog post would suggest otherwise.
David’s Brilliant Blog Post
First, a confession. My terrible secret is that I am not a comic-book fan. Which is to say that I don’t count myself among the legions of highly knowledgeable and passionate readers of comics. As a boy I read a bit of Spider-Man, and later went through a 2000 A.D./Judge Dredd phase, but I never accumulated the prize comic collection that the narrator of my novels possesses. So, you might reasonably ask, why write a series of books about a boy and his superhero brother (and, spoiler alert, their superhero neighbour)? For the answer to that you have to go back to 1978, the year the movie-going audience was told ‘you’ll believe a man can fly’. That was the year of Superman, as depicted by the pitch perfectly cast Christopher Reeve. Like Star Wars the previous year, I came out of the cinema after watching Superman a changed boy. The combination of proper stand-up-and-cheer super-heroics, combined with good-natured humour, not only won me over that day, but has stayed with me to this. Each time I sit down to write the next novel in the series, I play John Williams’ iconic Superman score to get me in the mood. After three… Da da da dahhh daa.
Unlike comics, I’ve always loved reading funny stories. From Horrid Henry to Jeeves & Wooster, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I can plot my development as a writer and a human bean through these kinds of books. So I’m thrilled that My Gym Teacher is an Alien Overlord has been shortlisted for this year’s Lollies. Like the rest of the series, it’s told from the point of view of Luke Parker, an embittered eleven-year-old. Luke’s reaction when his older brother is bestowed with superpowers and told to save the world is… outrage. It should’ve been him! That indignation and hurt is the source of much of the comedy. I’ve discovered that the more I frustrate Luke, the funnier the outcome. Regrettably, not everyone values funny books as much as I do. An eminent literary judge commenting on the long- and shortlist for a major prize remarked on the absence of funny books on either list. To paraphrase him: authors believe that sad stories are taken more seriously, and if you write one so too will you be. Of course you don’t have to write a single serious page in your novel. It’s enough to make a reader laugh. It’s amazing. But I hope we can agree that a book can be both funny and serious. Humour, I’d argue, especially for children, lets you engage with darker topics, and enables you to do so with a light touch. What’s more, as a reader when you’re laughing you’re vulnerable. Humour disarms you. And so then when the serious stuff drops, it hits hard because you’re laid open. Humour can do a lot, but a word of warning – don’t try to figure out why it works. I’ll leave you with the cautionary words of American writer E.B. White: “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.”
The Awesome Book Bundle Giveaway
I am very lucky to have been given not one, but two amazing bundles to giveaway by publishers Nosy Crow. The winners will receive all THREE books in the series and some other fabulous goodies. To win, comment below with the name of your secret superhero alias by Sunday 24th September (please get parental consent if under the age of 16.)
Thank you very much to Antonia and Scholastic for inviting me to take part in this tour, to David Solomons for writing a brilliant blog post (and book!), and to Nosy Crow for providing the two book bundles.
Make sure you check out the other nominees on the tour and DON’T FORGET TO VOTE HERE!!!