Waylon! One Awesome Thing
Marla Frazee, Illustrator
Hyperion, 2016 198 pgs.
Everything is different in fourth grade for science-geek Waylon. At school the boys has split into teams, determined by class kingpin, Arlo, which makes life awkward for Waylon who wants to be friends with everyone. At home his older sister has changed into a moody and angry teenager and the transformation has shifted the entire family dynamic. Waylon weathers the storm by purchasing a science journal and scribbling his musings about the natural and scientific world. Equilibrium is shaken once again when a former student and alleged juvenile delinquent re-enters the class. Everyone is sure that Baxter spent the last few months in jail and Arlo is reluctant to put him on a team. After yet another weird outburst in class Waylon also finds himself team-less. The two outcasts become reluctant friends and Waylon learns the truth behind the personality and intentions of the class "bad-boy". The new team of two bans together to rescue a lovable dog from certain death and the rest of the class gets drawn into the adventure. The entire group forms an informal team to rescue the desperate canine and the class goes back to being one big crew of friends with Baxter now part of the group.
Waylon is to Clementine what Stink is to Judy Moody: a companion series to the original featuring a male character to appeal to a wider audience. Clementine is a student in Waylon's class and makes appearances, which will please her fans. Waylon is not only funny and relatable, he will appeal to science-minded kids everywhere. His brain never stops working. Waylon spends a lot of time thinking about gravity (who doesn't?) and he thinks he may have figured out teleportation and is working on time travel. Waylon doesn't want to be a superhero like most boys; he aims to be a science-hero. Like most scientists, his brain doesn't always process social cues and he struggles to figure out people and relationships. The One Awesome Thing (OAT) of the title indicates a game he plays with his family where they share an awesome fact from their day. This game helps him to connect with his sister who is pulling away, but by book's end we understand her better and she softens up, showing the reader that crazy teen siblings will return to sanity. Waylon's family is supportive, quirky, and ever-present, making a nice change from the abundance of independent orphans running around in children's literature. Walyon, himself, is simple and sweet and he pulls his class back together by befriending the outcast, which is a lesson every child should learn. All plots are resolved, yet a last page development will lead the reader to the next installment in the series. The reading level is perfect for the intended audience. The margins and print are big, helping developing readers along. As with the Clementine series, beautifully rendered pencil illustrations are offered by Marla Frazee (one of my fav illustrators), which truly add to the story and break up the text.