________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 21 . . . . June 23, 2006


Laggan Lard Butts. (Orca Currents).

Eric Walters.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
108 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55143-518-7 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55143-531-4 (cl.).

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Kallie George.

*** /4


"A few minutes ago I looked at that screen and thought about how good it would have been to wear that uniform, that Leopards uniform. Wasn't it beautiful?" I asked.

I started clapping and the audience joined in. I looked over at Sarah. She looked pleased but confused.

"And then I looked up at the walls. Looked around the gym." I paused. I knew people had no idea what I was talking about. "Beautiful, clean, white walls. Most gyms have banner after banner hanging down from the ceiling, lining every wall. Banners for their championship teams, bragging about what they've done. Not our walls."

We have a few banners. Mostly they're for participation in a tournament. No championships. No tournament wins. None. Not just for this year's teams but ever. The tradition of this school is not winning. But still, year after year, we put together teams and we go out there and try.

"What was that saying on the PA the morning? A winner never quits and a quitter never wins. We never win, but we also never quit. We could wear those Leopard uniforms. We'd look pretty sharp. We'd have a cool name. But in the end, let's be honest: I'm not a leopard. I'm a Lard Butt." I paused. "And so are the rest of you. And I'm proud to be a Lard Butt. Go, Lard Butts. Thank you."

Laggan Lard Butts is part of the “Orca Currents” series, and the publisher notes that these books are intended to be short, contemporary, high-interest stories with low reading levels. Knowing this beforehand, I expected to be disappointed by Eric Walters' Laggan Lard Butts, assuming that a book designed for the reluctant reader would be simplistically written. My assumption was furthered by the book's design which is very unappealing. The cover illustration—a photo taken of a sports team's arms and hands stretching in to prepare for a game cheer—is off-putting, since the light on the arms give them a sickly appearance. However, design and categorization aside, Laggan Lard Butts is a delightful story, a classic sports tale with a humorous twist.

     The Laggan school basketball team suffers from two hardships—number one, they are on a losing streak; number two, they are plagued with the team name Laird, an old English word for Lord. When they decide to try and change the name through a democratic school election, one of the nominated names is Laggan Lard Butts. Although at first this name seems like a putdown, the team uses it as a rallying force, ultimately helping them to win more games. The novel's theme? Being able to laugh at yourself is the best way to relieve stress and garner success. The tension in the novel rises when it looks like the name Laggan Lard Butts might actually win the election, a situation about which the principal is not too pleased.

     Eric Walters' characterizations are excellent. The story is told in a first person narrative from the viewpoint of one of the boys on the team. Sam is your regular guy, a troublemaker who is generally liked by everyone. Through this character, Walters produces a realistic picture of teenage relationships, including romantic, friendship, and even student-teacher relations. As well, the basketball games are quick paced and would appeal both to boys and girls since they are not full of minute details of how the game is being played but rather focus on the emotions of characters as they play. All in all, this is a story I hope will be read by more than just its targeted audience. With a bit of luck, the unappealing cover and its denomination as a book for reluctant readers will not deter others from picking it off the shelves. It deserves a wide audience.


Kallie George is currently completing her Masters of Children's Literature degree at the University of British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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