Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Book Review Club - Butt Wars

Butt Wars
By Andy Griffiths
Age Range: ? ? ?

My seven year-old brought this book home. It was the party favor at a birthday party.

She was disappointed. Butt Wars? It sounded so boy boy boy.

I was puzzled. Butt in the title...of a middle grade?

I had to read it. Right after I convinced her she should at least try it. It was outside her comfort range because of the boyishness. And seeing as I wasn't opposed to the butts, or the crapalanches, or the aresteroids, or the flying brown blobs (I read a lot of German kidlit, and kids curse a lot more in middle grade German kidlit. Even in British kidlit, for that matter), I wanted her to try something different. Granted, this is a little out there, but nonetheless.

She loved it. LOVED IT. It's the longest book she's ever read.

Then I read it.

Butt Wars, The Final Conflict is the the third and last in the Butt War trilogy in which Zack, together with his butt, has to save the world from the Great White Butt. In this story, he travels back 65 million years to battle his arch enemy, and the double (or triple, I kind of lost count) agent, Mutant Barf Lord. I have to admit, I got a little tired of the butt talk. Buttasaurs, stink butts, cocobutt trees...if you can stick a butt in it, Andy Griffiths did. But (no pun intended) I think it's exactly that irreverent, crude potty talk that makes this book so endearing to a young audience (it was originally marketed in Australia as a YA). And I have to say, there is plot. Poopy plot, but plot.

What, however, does the infiltration of crude language into middle grade mean for writers? Profanity is definitely still a rarity, especially gratuitous profanity (for the exception to the rule, read or listen to Orson Scott Card's scifi middle grade, Space Boy), but crudeness?

Until Butt Wars, I hadn't seen it in this magnitude. Even more interesting, Butt Wars is an Australian creation brought to the U.S. market by Scholastic. We imported crudeness, which may have been easier than letting one of our own break down that wall.

But what does it mean? Before, crudeness-like profanity still is for this genre-was a sonic boom that could be used to catch the reader's attention. Now, it is fast becoming the norm. That makes the palette of language possibilities a little more colorful (yeay!), but our jobs a little harder. We need a new sonic boom.

Will it be profanity?

Or will it be something entirely new?

Curioser and curioser...

If Butt Wars just isn't your thing (or even if it is), check out Barrie Summy's blog for a whole host of books that'll have you talking and reading well into December!