Sunday, August 12, 2012
What it is it about guys and gross stuff? Why are boys (young and old) drawn stories and jokes that feature bodily fluids, nasty sights and, yes, awful smells? Literature has a proud tradition of gross humor going back to the Greek comedies through Shakespeare to today.***** The tradition can be found in children’s literature from Tom Sawyer and his dead cat in a bag (to cure warts) through Captain Underpants. And the tradition continues with Michael Wilhelm’s series about Skunk Guy. I just finished and greatly enjoyed the first book in the series, Norman and the Stinking Space Goo.***** Norman Flinch is an average fourteen year old boy with a more than average interest (obsession?) with comic books. And an encounter with an abandoned alien toy (left by a family on a working vacation from the planet Rentar) empowers Norman with the power of creating aromas. This allows Norman to live out his dreams and make himself into an odor powered superhero.***** My son has a fairly encyclopedic knowledge of comic books and he couldn’t think off hand of an aroma creating super hero in the Marvel or DC universe.***** This also allows the creator of the series, Michael Wilhelm, huge opportunities for smell related humor; skunks and rotten eggs come quickly, and humorously into play.***** Along with the stink jokes, there are very likable characters, including Norman’s new found friend, Wendell (a scientific genius) and his family (parents and sister.) ***** Parents will appreciate the wholesome nature of the books. The characters are certainly not flawless, but in general Norman and Wendell are trying to follow the values of truth and righteousness they find in their comic books. (Some parents might also appreciate that church going is a natural part of Norman’s family life.) ***** Along with writing the book, Wilhelm also provides the illustrations (the cover and a picture at the beginning of each chapter.) The drawings are in the style of Al Hirschfeld, with similar wit. ***** The book is an easy read for early chapter readers and should appeal to boys that might be hard to shop for in the library or bookstore. This first book in the series came out in 2001 (I’ll admit that as a read I thought, “Why aren’t they using cell phones?” and then I looked at the publishing date.) ****** This is a self-published book, but it doesn’t look like it (no offense self-published books that really look it.) You can learn more about this book and other books in the series (including The Sensational Slime Saga and Skunk on the Run) at www.skunk-guy.com. The books are available as e-books as well as in traditional tree killing form. Follow the sweet stink to a fine series of books.