We are all familiar with the Adventure Story. The protagonist embarks on a quest for something important: truth, answers to life’s big questions, perhaps even salvation.
Throughout the hero’s epic journey, he or she encounters many obstacles and overcomes deep-rooted doubts and fears, leading to personal growth and self discovery. These tales frequently span weeks, months and years, filling hundreds of pages and sometimes extending to entire series.
The Qwikpick Adventure Society, a recently published children’s adventure story by Sam Riddleburger, is exactly like that, only … um, well, less so.
Weighing in at a mere 125 pages (some with pictures), this book introduces us to Lyle Hertzog and his friends Dave and Marilla, who set out on a one-day mission to find … a poop fountain. Yes, their town is about to shut down its existing sludge processor in favor of a newer, more efficient model, so the three friends have resolved to witness firsthand the about-to-become-defunct fountain in all its poop-spurting glory.
Of course, this is much more than a story about a poop fountain. It’s also a story about three kids’ desire to … er, have some fun and hang out together. Along the way, they do slay a few dragons: a barbed-wire fence, a steep hill and some prickly brambles, not to mention a field full of cow pies.
As they tackle each new challenge, Lyle discovers some amazing things about himself and the world around him. He’s pretty good at hill hopping, and old dried-up cow pies develop a crusty top with the consistency of paper, just to name two.
OK, you get the picture. This is not your typical Adventure Story. So what makes this tale worth reading? For me, it boils down to a few things:
1. Its simplicity. Not every adventure has to include evil overlords or perilous voyages. These kids embark on a humble expedition, to a sewage plant of all places. Their everyday motivations, reactions to adversity and spirit of camaraderie are things any reader can relate to.
2. Its believable kid’s voice. Our narrator, Lyle, is a kid through and through. Here are just a few examples of the main character’s voice:
On living in a trailer park: Mom says that when we pay off the credit cards we may be able to get a double-wide trailer out in the county. That would be awesome. Sometimes on TV people make jokes about double-wides, but those people have obviously never lived in a single-wide.
On the (potentially romantic) dynamics within the threesome: We’ve never ever talked about it, but I am sure that Dave likes Marilla just as much as I do. I’m sure he guesses I like her too, but like I said, we’ve never said anything about it to each other and never, ever to Marilla.
On the changing nature of the town: Every kid in Crickenburg knows that riding your bike on South Franklin Street is the number-one way to have a cop drive by and yell at you. It isn’t our fault that South Franklin Street has become an eight-lane traffic fiasco of crazed Wal-Mart shoppers! If they want to yell at someone, they should yell at the Wal-Mart shoppers, not kids riding their bikes.
3. Its humor. You can probably gather from the excerpts above that the book has much to offer in this area. Here are just a couple more tidbits that made me laugh out loud:
On his own lack of athletic ability: My favorite PE game is crab soccer because no one can really tell if you’re good at that or not…. Marilla is actually pretty good at basketball and she says that crab soccer is for losers. To which I say, “CRAB SOCCER IS THE SPORT OF KINGS!”
On the word “poop”: You should know that we cracked up each time any of us said the word poop. Yeah, it’s kind of second-grade, I know, but once the word poop has been said fifty times, the fifty-first time is twice as funny. Try it.
(For the record, I have not tried it. Yet.)