Middle graders reading “The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid,” written and illustrated by L.A. local Kirk Scroggs, will get an insider’s look at the private journal of the character Russell Weinwright.
Not your ordinary middle schooler, Russell describes himself as a “half-swamp monster/half-human student at Houma Bayou Middle School.” He’s got face tendrils, a tree trunk arm, a carrot finger, webbed toes, and is nourished by sunlight. The bullies call him “Swamp Kid,” and their teasing and stares are hurtful.
Russell’s self-deprecating personality and keen insights about his classmates, together with details of his middle-school adventures and angst, pack the pages of this terrific debut graphic novel. Russel is an avid doodler, and his green-tinted art is featured throughout the spiral, offering an added glimpse into what he’s thinking. And what Russell’s thinking about is the discovery of some old science lab remnants scattered about the bayou. What clues might they hold to Russell’s origins, given that’s where he was found as a “tiny sapling?” Efforts to locate his birth parents yielded nothing, so he was adopted. Is there also a connection to Russell and the legendary beast, known as Swamp Thing, that haunts the bayou?
In a surprising twist of fate, Swamp Kid, who stinks at sports, becomes the darling of Coach Sanchez after winning a race. My favorite scenes are when Russell’s with his pals Charlotte and Preston, who help him make sense and use of his newly discovered plant powers. The book is filled with fun characters who, in addition to Coach Sanchez, provide humor, sub plots and red herrings. There’s the science teacher, Mr. Finneca, whose behavior is intimidating and suspicious. There’s Ms. Moss, the art instructor; some shady dudes in black vans who turn up everywhere; fellow student Sam, the bean spiller; school jock Nils Canebrake; and last but not least, Specimen Number Two, a bayou-born toad who becomes Russell’s pet.
“The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid” will resonate with tweens seeking a book dealing with important middle-school issues such as bullying, friendships and feeling different – in a comical, creative and satisfying way. Get swamped today!