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The Qwikpick Adventure Society [Hardcover]

Sam Riddleburger


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This is the report of the first-ever trip of The Qwikpick Adventure Society. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The straight poop 28 Sep 2007
By E. R. Bird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As a children's book reviewer there is one fact that you must keep at the forefront of your mind at all times: You are not a kid. Not usually anyway. And because you are not a kid, you are not going to read a book the way a kid does. I keep talking in my reviews about how your own personal prejudices affect your interpretation of the book in front of you, but it's bloody true. I mean, take scatological humor in all its myriad forms. When I read How to Eat Fried Worms as an adult, I didn't actually expect the hero to eat worms (let alone 30+ of them). And when I read Out of Patience by Brian Meehl last year I really enjoyed it until the moment when the local fertilizer plant became... well, you'd have to read the book to grasp the full horror of the situation. Actually, "Out of Patience" was the title I kept thinking of as I got deeper and deeper into "The Qwikpick Adventure Society". Both books are funny and smart and both involve gross quantities of waste to an extent you might never expect. I am an adult. I have a hard time with poop. Poop aside (and that's saying something) there's a lot of great stuff going on in this book. It's definitely a keeper, but it's going to have a hard hard time winning over its primary purchasing audience, adults.

Lyle Hertzog is going to level with you right from the start. In this story he and his friends, "didn't stop a smuggling ring or get mixed up with the mob or stop an ancient evil from rising up and spreading black terror across Crickenburg." Nope. This is the story of Lyle, Dave, and Marilla and their club's first adventure. The kids say that they're The Qwikpick Adventure Society because they meet regularly in the break room of the local Qwikpick convenience store where Lyle's parents work. When it occurs to the three that they'll all be available to hang out on Christmas Day, they decide to do something extraordinary. Something unprecedented. And when Marilla discovers that the local "antiquated sludge fountain" at the Crickenburg sewer plant is about to be replaced, they know exactly what to do. They must see the poop fountain before it is gone. The result is a small adventure that is exciting, frightening, and very very pungent.

Someone once told me that this book reminded them of Stand By Me, "except no dead bodies and no Will Wheaton." They may be on to something there. Author Sam Riddleburger (who broke my heart when I discovered that this name was a pseudonym), works the relationships between the kids nicely. It's a little hard to get into the heads of all the characters considering that we're seeing everything through Lyle's point of view, but the author does what he can. As for the "sludge fountain" itself, kids looking for gross moments will not be disappointed. You might be able to sell it to their parents with the argument that it's actually rather informative and factual on this point (though I suggest that you play up the relationship aspect instead).

There are few kid-appropriate taboo topics out there, but if I was going to suggest one I might say it was the issue of class. Oh, you'll get plenty of books where a kid lives a miserable life in a trailer park and gets teased by the rich/middle class kids in their class about it, sure. Now name all the books you can think of where the main characters live in a trailer park and that's just their life. Or have parents that work in a convenience store and there isn't any alcohol abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, etc. I swear, a kid who actually lived in a trailer park these days who tried to find a book containing kids like themselves would have to assume that abuse was the norm rather than the exception. So when I saw that both Lyle and Marilla lived in a trailer park and it wasn't a big deal, that was huge for me. Also, sometimes a book with kids of different religions or ethnicities will make a big deal about the fact. Here, Lyle's Christian, Dave's Jewish, and Marilla's a Jehovah's Witness and not white but not identified as anything in particular. Quick! Name all the Jehovah's Witnesses you've encountered in children's books where the story wasn't ALL about being a Jehovah's Witness! Riddleburger is making people just people. What a concept.

I've been talking a lot this year about books that don't slot neatly into categories. The kinds of books that mix genres and styles. "The Qwikpick Adventure Society" will be classed as fiction, no question about it, but its prolific use of photographs certainly separates it from the pack. For example, there's a moment when the kids are trying to figure out what to do for Christmas. One of them suggests opening a fifty-gallon drum of banana puree that's been sitting behind an empty Kroger store and there, lo and behold, is an actual honest-to-goodness photograph of a rusty, decaying, very real banana puree barrel. I don't know whether to hope that Mr. Riddleburger took the picture years ago and was just itching for a chance to get to use it, or that he created the barrel himself for the sole purpose of including a photo of it in his book. I also enjoyed the hand-drawn portions. The comic strip All-Zombie Marching Band deserves mention in and of itself (though technically William Nicholson's Wind Singer did it first).

I say that the poop, the sheer amount of it, will turn off a lot of adults. At the same time though there are plenty of moments that will lure the grown-ups back in again. Particularly librarians. Particularly librarians that have ever attempted an origami craft with a bunch of kids. For these brave men and women Lyle's line about the process of doing an unfamiliar animal will ring true. "You follow the instructions through like thirty-four steps and all of a sudden there's this funky zigzag arrow and on the next page it has turned from a lump of paper into a horse with wings." YES! Exactly! Thank you!

All in all, I'm a fan. If I hold my nose and plunge on in, even the poop o' rific parts are tolerable to my aged senses. The characters ring true, the dialogue is snappy, the unique format will lure in reluctant readers, and talk about a title custom made for booktalking! There's not a kid alive today who wouldn't want to read the book when confronted with the plot. It has ups. It has downs. It has a great sense of place and a whole lot of poop. Take all angles into consideration when considering this book. On my part, I like it and that is that.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A parent's review -- funny. 25 April 2011
By M. Heiss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
OK, the one-sentence summary: Three kids walk across town to the water treatment plant to see a fountain aerating human waste.

But it's much, much better than that. Nice light touch. There's a similar journaling style to "The Strange Case of Origami Yoda" by Tom Angleberger, but this has less bad language. The friendships develop, and the characters are believable and likeable.

I'm raising a family of boys, and whatever the brothers read in books get repeated eventually by the kindergartener, so I'm picky about language in books.

Parent notes: barf, h-e-double l, poop (a LOT of poop), and oh my God. The dad in this story has been laid off and is resentful of more prosperous people - he detests people who build and buy new houses because of the changes that new development brings to the community.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Book Review: The Qwikpick Adventure Society 26 April 2008
By T. Jonker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In my youth, I've done my fair share of hanging around public places. A friend and I used to be regulars at the local Kmart plaza, eating Nutty Bars and perusing the car care section to debate which chamois was "probably most absorbent". These are the things that happen growing up in a small town. "The Qwikpick Adventure Society" exposes these seemingly mundane life experiences as the occasionally life changing times they can be. All nicely wrapped up into a story about seeing a mythical "poop fountain".

Yep, the above info is indeed correct. I can't say that I've ever really read anything like this book. The back cover contains what appears to be a handwritten checklist titled "My list of possible things to do over the Christmas break". Number four on the list? "See the fountain of poop". Unexpected. Even though I can't say I would ever really be interested in such an endeavor, it's fair to say my interest was piqued.

The story is told through the perspective of Lyle Hertzog. The book itself is a sort of notebook - part typed (on Lyle's typewriter) and part handwritten. Lyle and his two friends, Marilla Anderson and Dave Raskin, all live in the trailer park located behind the Qwikpick gas station. Since Lyle's folks work there, Qwikpick becomes a hangout. When the three realize they don't have plans for Christmas day, they are determined to make the most of it - set out on a true adventure. When Marilla suggests a trip to the Crickenburg Wastewater Treatment Plant, they decide it's a plan. FYI: They get more than bargained for.

It's tough to judge the appeal or readability of a book for other people. What I do know is this: I started this up and finished it in one sitting, which is not the way I usually work. As you might expect from comments above, this story wasn't without some gross out moments. A portion of readers will be genuinely repulsed during the climax of the tale, ensuring that yet another group of kids will be dying to read it. The entertaining mix of first-person story, notes, and the occasional photograph combined to create that oh so elusive element that often sells a book to readers: voice. In fact, this one would probably be good for class use to teach that concept (that is, if the teacher is cool with the whole poop fountain thing). A book that notices how adventure can come from unusual sources, "The Qwikpick Adventure Society" is a solid fiction selection.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good fun! 26 Nov 2007
By Lessa - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There's something we adult readers of this book need to keep in mind. It's a kid's book, and kids like a good gross-out the same way they like a good scare, or creepy tale. We adult readers need to keep that in mind, and keep our senses of humor about us for this one. It's entirely believable that kids would go to see a doomed "poop-fountain", and that real kids will get some laughs reading about it.

And underneath that lies a very good story. If it takes the poop factor to entice kids to give it a try, I can live with that.

Regular kids - good kids, doing and thinking regular kid things - and it's quite fun! Takes me back to the good days of childhood. Completely enjoyed it. I think kids will get a kick out of it. I liked the use of photos, and "handwritten" notes with the typed text. Captures the voice of a kid, without falling into the annoyingly childish.

Many may look at this book and think of it as a boy book, and perhaps more boys than girls will like it. But I wouldn't put it firmly in the "boy book" catagory. There's a girl among the three pals, so girls have someone they can identify with. And while I know potty humor is typically more interesting to boys, there's more to this story than poop - and the poop that's there has a purpose (although a stinky one). I think more girls will enjoy this than we grown-ups might assume.

There are really many things I like about this story. It's great to have a story about kids that have both parents, whose parents can't afford the newest gadgets or in-style clothes for their kids - and it's not an issue. Where the kids come from regular, and presumably happy families. This story gives kids like that characters they can relate to. It's also nice that there are differences of religion, and race between the main characters, but that it's merely differences accepted that don't really matter. The way normal kids usually treat these things, if adults don't interfere.

I'm always glad to find books to use with relutant readers - this one fits the bill!

Hope there's more to come - although how you'd match a fountain of poop I don't know.
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for the kid or grown-up kid! 17 April 2008
By F. Todd Jennings - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a cleverly written children's book with a thus-far-untapped plot location...it touches on every kid's fascination with a.) gross stuff and b.) forbidden places. My son ( now 10 )loves this book and identifies with the characters fully. The book's characters are sympathetic and believable and resonate with the kid in each of us. The author is obviously a kid at heart who never lost his spirit of adventure. His sense of youthful merriment translates throughout every page. I hope to see further QuikPick adventures in future! Well done!
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