A return to ''The Room'' of kids' books - The Adventures of Archie Reynolds! - a truly special kind of awesome awfulness

Bonsai Forest

Get ready for awful!

I wrote a liveblog about this before, but it was deleted because I said some dodgy things about the author. So I'll be more careful with my language.

Annnd, for those who missed it the first time, I am revisiting one of the most gloriously awful books ever written. The Adventures of Archie Reynolds.

It sounds inoffensive enough. The concept combines Slice of Life comedy about a group of kids just doing kid stuff, and an adventure involving jewel thieves. Having enjoyed books such as A Spy in the Neighborhood when I was a kid, I was having to revisit this concept again. And besides, I am the person who started the Literature thread topic "Okay, admit it, who here reads kids' books?" I'm hoping I can one day pass off some of my favorite books to my nephew and niece when they're old enough for them. But this won't be one of them!

Now, A Spy in the Neighborhood is an example of how Slice of Life and adventure in the neighborhood can be done well. But... I'll get to that later. I'd rather talk about this book's sins first.

So, let's open up! Starting with the cover.

Wow. A lot of effort has clearly been put into this. It must have taken forever to get those kids together to photoshop them onto a generic green hill with no other features.

I can't tell what the boy in the dark blue shirt is resting his arm on. It's clearly not Archie (presumably the orange-haired kid front and center is Archie, since he's the main character after all), because if you look closely, his arm is behind Archie's shirt. Almost as if - wait for it - he was photoshopped in there and they tried their best to make it look as if he's resting his arm on Archie's shoulder.

The girl to the left of Archie is presumably Amanda, the most important of the female characters. I'll get to who the characters are later, but I'm going by placement here. Is she standing just to the left of Archie, or behind him? Judging by size, she should be standing just to the side of him. Judging by placement, she's standing behind him, but the perspective looks all wrong. It's almost as if she was photoshopped in or something.

The two boys in the background are probably the bullies. I can tell because... because they're in the distance, there's two of them, and they're vaguely threatening? One is pointing his fingers like a gun, the other holding a snowball. Or a baseball? In the book, he uses a snowball, and baseballs are mentioned nowhere.

So I at least figured out who Archie and Amanda are, and the two bullies. I see one other girl and three other boys. That doesn't add up. The main characters are Archie and his friends Billy and Hank, who are with him almost all the time, as we'll soon see. Amanda also has two friends who are girls. But unless one of the kids on the left is a baby butch, I don't see three girls; I see two.

I wonder if whoever slopped this cover together even bothered to read the story in detail? At least they made an effort to figure out who the most important characters are, but they didn't quite make it.

Let's check the back cover.

While hiking along a backyard route called "the secret passage," twelve-year-old Archie Reynolds and his two friends stumble upon a mysterious, hidden tunnel. What's in the tunnel? Who built it? And why is it there? Archie and his two friends are destined to find out the shocking, chilling answers to these questions, and more, as the mystery unfolds. But before they do, they must first tangle with a neighborhood bully and his pal, as well as three flowering girls from the neighborhood, one of whom has a secret interest in Archie.

Sounds pretty standard. Again, I like the idea of mixing Slice of Life with local adventure a lot. I enjoyed books like My Teacher Is an Alien and Fourth-Grade Celebrity (yeah, I know it's meant for girls, and I'm a guy, but it's a pretty gender neutral story that anyone could enjoy) as a kid, and mixing the two together sounds like a great idea.

I wonder what the shocking, chilling answers are to the questions of who built the mysterious hidden tunnel, what's in it, and why it's there. And seeing Archie tangle with a neighborhood bully and his pal - wait, don't you mean two bullies? - and three flowering girls from the neighborhood. Flowering? What does that even mean? Hold on, lemme check a dictionary site:

(of a plant) in bloom.

capable of producing flowers, especially in contrast to a similar plant with the flowers inconspicuous or absent.

producing flowers at a specified time or of a specified type.

Ah, I get it. So Amanda and her friends produce flowers of some specific type at a particular time of day. Except that they don't. And now my vocabulary has been increased.

I also note there are reviews of this book as well, right on the back cover. Let's take a look at them.

"A gripping, captivating first novel...Simply the best action scenes I've ever read in a children's novel, with a thriller of an ending."
Glen Zenda, M. Ed, Veteran School Administrator, Newark, NJ

"A great debut...In addition to the suspense-filled plot, Bailey deals carefully with sensitive issues of boy-girl maturity, issues that most children's authors shy away from."
Lorraine Thomas, M. Ed, Veteran Elementary School Teacher, Florham Park, NJ

"Truly exceptional... Contains nail-biting action and suspense throughout, with entertaining slices of humor and emotion... a winner."
William Plakey, M. Ed, Veteran Elementary School Teacher, East Hanover, NJ

Nice! So many ringing endorsements from New Jersey-based school teachers and school administrators. This has gotta be good quality literature.

Well, soon we'll find out, as I take an in-depth look at the story. As the book lacks illustrations, I enlisted the help of Sam Pointon to bring some of its more visual scenes to life.

Comments

Fun fact. New Jersey is a state with a lot of toxic waste dumps. Just saying...
Jinxmenow 25th Oct 14
^[Joking Mode]I will fight you over that.[/Joking Mode]
doctrainAUM 25th Oct 14
I live in New Jersey. I'd heard the jokes about our state. Within the state, there's a shirt that says "New Jersey, where only the strong survive!" and a bumper sticker saying "New Jersey and corruption, perfect together", a play on a Chris Christie slogan.
BonsaiForest 25th Oct 14
late comment but... the "flowering" girls description wins the award for "creepiest thing ever put in a book in the history of literature"
dreamedkestrel 29th Oct 14
What? Flowers? Must have something to do with a flower contest during the summary of the book.
sabrina_diamond 5th Nov 14
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/lb_i.php?lb_id=14142669470B37614600