October 24, 2016

Tank and Fizz: The Case of the Battling Bots

by Liam O’Donnell
Illustrated by Mike Deas
Orca Book Publishers
163 pp.
Ages 8-11

We all know cheaters, those vile people who manipulate circumstances in their favour, regardless of others.  At the simplest, they are kids who cheat on tests or lie to cover up some misdemeanour.  At worst, they are adults who perpetrate crimes for their own purposes.  It is so satisfying when a cheater gets caught because that’s what they deserve and it’s a small step in making the world a safer and better place for all.  It’s not surprising, thus, that when Tank and Fizz, our intrepid detectives from The Case of the Slime Stampede (Orca, 2015)  are asked by the school Troll Patrol to prove that wealthy and reprehensible classmate Rizzo Rawlins is cheating in the local battle bot competition, that the two monsters are eager to take on the case. If only all cheaters could be caught by Tank and Fizz.
All year, I had watched Rizzo cheat in class.  Math test, science quizzes, coloring contests.  You name it, Rizzo Rawlins cheated.  He bribed the school math whizzes for test answers.  His goons sabotaged classmates’ experiments.  He hired professional artists to do his cut-and-past craft projects. Rizzo Rawlins had to win at everything, every time, any way he could.  I had seen the trail of broken dreams in my schoolmates’ tears.  When I’d seen the sad faces of the Troll Patrol,  I knew Rizzo’s cheating had to stop.  And I was the goblin to make it happen. (pg. 21-22)
But, as is usually the case, everyone knows about the cheating but proving it is far more difficult.  Even with Tank’s code sniffer–her invention to sniff out codes originating from beyond the school–that proves Rizzo’s bot, the Rawlins Reaper, should be disqualified, Principal Weaver refuses to believe Rizzo is anything but a model student, probably because Rizzo’s father makes huge financial donations to the school.  When the two detectives follow Rizzo to the almost complete new stadium, Slurp Stadium, they witness his acquisition of a new illegal part for his bot and his interactions, by screen, with a masked hacker called the Codex.  But the search for evidence of Rizzo’s cheating becomes linked to a situation in which the Codex threatens Mayor Grimlock to suffer unforeseen consequences if the new stadium is ever opened.  The goblin and troll duo undertake surveillance, alongside magic-spinning friend, Aleetha, a lava elf, and discover a conspiracy involving Sanzin Balazar, the wealthy entrepreneur behind SlugCo and the new stadium, a banished demon of goblin legends, and a threat to Slick City of monstrous proportions.  But can they stop the chaos before everything is lost?

Liam O’Donnell has a fun way with words, and more so in his creation of the world in which Tank and Fizz live.
You know that feeling you get when you try to stop a demon from being summoned but accidentally help summon it?  It definitely takes the shine off your scales. (pg. 136)
There are double grubnug-fudge smoothies, glowshroom groves, spicy lizard dogs and choco-slug cookies, and mothers who scratch the scales behind your ears. (Aw.)  And Tank’s inventions, like her spybot and springers, are the contraptions of kids’ dreams. Mike Deas’ graphic novel-type illustrations suggest he got as much amusement as the author in creating the assortment of monsters that populate Slick City and the Tank and Fizz books in general. (Books 3, The Case of the Missing Mage is set for release April 2017.)

From Tank and Fizz: The Case of the Battling Bots 
by Liam O'Donnell, illus. by Mikes Deas
Since the book’s dedication is “To goblin detectives and troll tinkerers everywehere”, it seems only right to review The Case of the Battling Bots in October, the month of goblins, trolls, witches, elves and more. Moreover, the book was just nominated for the 2017 Silver Birch Express award, so it’s review at this time is only fitting.  But the outrageous antics of Tank and Fizz, all in good fun and with the best of intentions, will always entertain, regardless of the time of year, as long as early and middle-grade readers enjoy a bit of fun with their creepy and a bit, but not too much, of the graphic-novel  format to dress up a strongly-plotted story.

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