Monday, April 09, 2012

Showoff Unexpectedly Entertaining

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for Showoff, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier books in the Swindle series.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

Hanging out with 12-year-old Griffin Bing, a.k.a. The Man With the Plan, can be dangerous.  Just ask his best friend, Ben Slovak.  He's already been roped into enough of Griffin's crazy schemes—he doesn't want to be involved in even one more.  So, when Savannah Drysdale's ferocious Doberman goes crazy at a dog show, leading to the injury of a prize-winning Beagle and the subsequent incarceration of the Doberman, Ben begs Griffin to just leave it alone.  The boys are both terrified of Luthor, but they can't stand to see Savannah so hurt by the loss of her beloved pet.  Besides, there's something fishy about the whole thing.  Luthor's not exactly the most docile pooch in the world, but why would he go bezerk all the sudden?  It doesn't add up.

When Griffin makes one of his famous plans, this time to break Luthor out of the pound, he and Ben are unwittingly thrown into a whirlwind adventure involving a monster dog and the fussy, but cutthroat world of competitive dog showing.  The misbehaving Doberman clearly isn't Best of Show material and yet, the only way to save Savannah's slobbering dog is to turn him into a model citizen.  In the meantime, the boys can poke around all of New York City's most prestigious dog shows for clues as to who was really responsible for Luthor's strange behavior toward the Beagle.  The boys will, of course, get more than they bargained for—the Man With the Plan wouldn't have it any other way.

Gordon Korman books are always hit and miss for me.  My kids adore everything he writes, but I find some of his stuff (like Swindle) to be too underdeveloped, too far-fetched, to be truly appealing.  Don't get me wrong—I love children's books, I just want them to be well-written, you know?  At any rate, I wasn't super excited when the librarian at my kids' school asked me to read Showoff, the fourth book in the Swindle series.  Being the dutiful volunteer that I am, I did it anyway.  And was pleasantly surprised.  Showoff turned out to be a fun, zany mystery that kept me laughing and turning pages.  It's not like my favorite children's book of all time, but I actually enjoyed this one much more than I thought I would.  My kids, of course, think it's Newbery material; I wouldn't go that far.  Still it's a fun one.   

(Readalikes:  Swindle and the rest of the books in the Swindle series by Gordon Korman)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG

To the FTC, with love:  I borrowed Showoff from the library at my children's elementary school and read it as part of my volunteer work with the school's Quest reading program.  

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