Lunch Lady and her sidekick Betty have saved the kids at Thompson Brook Elementary from evil cyborg substitutes, librarians on a rampage, video game villains, and more, all with the help of the Breakfast Bunch. But Lunch Lady and Betty may have bitten off more than they can chew this time. The new superintendent has fired them! Now Betty is working at Grease Burger and Lunch Lady is at home eating chips and watching TV. Meanwhile, something weird is going on at the school. The superintendent is cutting everything and kids are forced to run on treadmills during gym. Not only that…all the villains that Lunch Lady and Betty have ever defeated are at the school again! Will the Breakfast Bunch be able to rouse Lunch Lady and Betty one last time? Or have they reached the end of all their adventures? Stay tuned for one final round up.
My favorite types of series to read or to watch are the ones that are a little bit campy, but full of snark and vigor. Like the classic Danger Mouse cartoons, where sound effects popped up on the screen and the villains seemed like they were close to winning until Danger Mouse stepped in to save the day with a bit of clever humor. It was the type of show that the young could enjoy watching and laughing at, but the older crowd could snort and giggle along with them at some of the hidden jokes about government and everyday life. And that’s what the Lunch Lady series reminds me of. The everyday life is a bit strange and weird, but still recognizable, and the sense of humor is spot on for all ages. The humor of school lunches being replaced with vending machines is the sort of subtle satire that parents can nod along with and understand as well. It takes a deft hand to be able to write humor like this, and Jarrett is a master at it. He has kept readers young and old alike entertained for ten volumes of Lunch Lady. Where else would you find a superhero who not only saves the day but also makes the strangest/best food concoctions ever, such as pepperoni pancakes?
Even more exciting to me, though, is that Jarrett has created characters that defy our normal expectations by being…well…normal. The Breakfast Bunch and crew are well-rounded characters with faults, failures, triumphs, and everything in between. Even their “enemy,” the football star, grows up during the series and is willing to seek help from others—in his own way, of course. These are the types of characters that any young reader will be able to identify with, because they aren’t just cardboard figures that are stereotypes of people. Instead, they act like real people, which is unsurprising given that Jarrett revealed that he based them on friends. These are the types of books I love recommending, because readers can find themselves in the story with ease.
Jarrett’s illustrations may sound boring when you say they are simple black and white drawings with yellow tinting for some color. But these illustrations are anything but boring. The characters swirl about the page with lively action and fantastical weapons, such as chicken nugget bombs (what else would you expect from a lunch lady, after all?). Jarrett also makes sure that readers don’t miss the fantastic weapons, by using small arrows and captions to point to them, so that readers are clued in to what is about to be used against the ne’er-do-wells.
After ten volumes, this is the Lunch Lady and Breakfast Bunch’s last adventure for now. But I think we can imagine that they are still fighting the good fight and that when the world needs them again, they will reappear. Although the book is aimed at the elementary school age crowd, there is no reason that middle school and older folks can’t enjoy the series as well.
Lunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle, vol. 10
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: 7-10 years