Meet Bill Waddler, a duck who has the ability to hear everyday objects speak to him. This sounds as if it would be amazing to experience, only we quickly discover that it’s not as fantastic as you would think it’d be. Everything has an opinion, making it difficult for Bill to even use the toilet!
Attack of the Stuff is the first book in a new series by New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Jim Benton. Bill starts us off on his adventure with a stressful dream about farting snakes coiling everywhere on and around him. He’s going through a period of self reflection as he thinks about childhood dreams of becoming a famous musician and questions why his current job of selling hay doesn’t seem to be as successful as it used to be. He’s frustrated and feels like he is falling behind the rest of the world as technology advances without him, yet he doesn’t want to change his ways.
Bill’s ability to hear every object, animal, and appliance around him just adds to this stress. Nothing around him is happy. All the objects are continuously complaining and putting him down, from the jelly jar, to the lamp, to his toilet. Here’s where we see lots of classic fart jokes that will make kids giggle. Done with all the insults and certainly done with all the farting, Bill gets the idea to leave it all behind and try out living in nature. However, as he wrestles for survival out in the woods, simultaneously, disaster strikes civilization. Bill will have to help fix it by using his unique power, but this time with a purpose. Here’s where the story brings together educational themes such as sexism, working together to solve difficult problems, and the importance of friendship.
Middle school children will love this story and be asking for the next title in the series. The dialogue is easy to understand, but packed with silliness that will have any child laughing. Benton’s simple style color illustrations make it effortless to follow along with the panels in order. There aren’t many panels per page and the dialogue or thought bubbles are kept to a minimum. This makes it easy for any beginner to know where to read next without having to think about where their eyes should go. This combined with short chapters make it a great pick for reluctant readers as they will not easily get lost or confused and can celebrate the success of finishing entire chapters quickly.
If you are looking to add a middle school friendly graphic novel that is both humorous and smart, I highly recommend checking out this one.
Attack of the Stuff: The Life and Times of Bill Waddler 1
By Jim Benton
Publisher Age Rating: 7-12
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)