________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 2 . . . . September 16, 2016


Eric Vale, Epic Fail.

Michael Gerard Bauer. Illustrated by Joe Bauer.
Toronto, Scholastic Canada, 2015.
185 pp., trade pbk., $7.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-3925-0.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Janice Foster.

**** /4



Ever had a nickname?

And I'm not talking about something cool like Dragon Slayer or Dark Knight or Masked Avenger or Strider. I mean one of those crummy names someone hurls at you and then you're stuck with it.

Author Michael Gerard Bauer captures those key elements of being a fifth grader: teachers, friends, nicknames, worries, daydreams and that wide assortment of peers. The highlight of Eric Vale, Epic Fail is that its readers will find its contents hilarious.

      Eric Vale finds it hard to concentrate in class, preferring to daydream about his own superhero, Secret Agent Derek 'Danger' Dale, whose exploits he records on his Amazing Stories and Genius Thoughts Journal. Lost in thought, he believes his teacher, Mr. Winter, has called out his name, but instead he was talking about how the introduction of cane toads into the country had become an epic fail. When a classmate calls out "Don't you get it. Eric Vale – Epic Fail", a nickname is born. For the remainder of the story, Eric, in trying to remove this nickname, finds himself in a cycle of epic fails.

      The narrative style of this novel is engaging. The inclusion of Eric's inner thoughts, on both the real situations as well as his daydream adventures, helps the reader understand Eric himself and his connection to the other characters in the story. Such an interesting variety of characters provided the opportunity to explore the issues of friendship, new students, bullying and diversity. With the overriding tone of hilarity, even reluctant readers will find themselves captivated. Episodes such as the 'still turned on' microphone at the assembly and the 'teddy bear pajama' swimming trunks will have everyone laughing out loud.

      Eric Vale, Epic Fail is enriched with a variety of cartoon style line drawings by Joe Bauer. The accompanying drawings along the margins of a page add humour and build on the text, at times elaborating on an idea. The comic book style of Eric's journal about the adventures of his superhero gives a graphic novel feel to sections of the book. At the same time, it illustrates this type of writing process to the reader.

      With a protagonist prone to bad luck and misadventures, an interesting assortment of characters, illustrations that provide a comic book flavour, and an infusion of witty humour, Eric Vale, Epic Fail will delight its reading audience, leaving them looking forward to the sequel, Eric Vale, Super Male.

Highly Recommended.

Janice Foster is a retired teacher and teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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