July 12, 2019

The Almost Epic Squad: Super Sketchy

Written by Lesley Livingston
Illustrated by Britt Wilson
Scholastic Canada
181 pp.
Ages 8-13
July 2019

In this newest installment of The Almost Epic Squad, a series of multi-authored middle-grade novels that blend humour, mystery and fantasy, Lesley Livingston introduces Daisy Kildare, one of the four babies exposed to reidium at the Dimly, Manitoba hospital. Like her cohorts Jessica Flem and Gary Lundborg from Kevin Sylvester's Mucus Mayhem (2018) and Ted Staunton's What Blows Up (2019) respectively, Daisy is reaching puberty and unknowingly coming into her almost-epic superpowers. If only she knew how to control hers and stay safe from those who want to take advantage of them. 

Daisy has always tried to figure what she's good at and now that she has to choose a May long-weekend activity camp, she's decided that art will be her destiny. Her efforts are generally not very good until she grabs one of the old promotional pencils from the Dimly Bulb Company. Immediately she feels a tingle and a zap and her below-par art becomes extraordinary and is touted by Mrs. Winklehorn, the art teacher, as "an abstract-Impressionist-absurdist gem." (pg. 22) Kip Winklehorn, a parkour disaster, makes Daisy's acquaintance at camp and tells her that he's always heard that Dimly is well-known for its light bulbs, graphite and Splotnik, a liquor that originated in the Balkan country of Pianvia, and how all were revered by artists. Daisy could certainly use some help as her first drawing assignment at camp is a bust until she feels that familiar tingle and jolt and becomes the pineapple she is drawing.
From The Almost Epic Squad: Super Sketchy by Lesley Livingston, illus. by Britt Wilson
Fortunately, Kip, a kind-hearted boy–he has a three-legged, one-eyed rescue marmot named Percy–comes to her rescue.
...Daisy had somehow managed to turn herself into a tropical fruit. And Kip wasn't about to just leave her there to ripen. (pg. 58)
He discovers that if he erases Daisy's drawing, she will turn back to her human self. It would seem that Daisy's destiny was not art but rather transmogrification.
From The Almost Epic Squad: Super Sketchy by Lesley Livingston, illus. by Britt Wilson
Meanwhile, in a subterranean hideout in the Okanagan valley, Dr. Gavin Bafflegab is working in his Cryptolair to prove the existence of cryptids, creatures of folklore and legend.  He is working for the Boss, the elusive costume-wearing evil queenpin who has been tracking the four Dimly kids, and intends to raise an army of cryptids to secure control over the world. When his research associate a.k.a. lab rat Gerald recognizes Daisy from his time with Dr. Fassbinder, the doctor who'd been testing the Dimly babies from the time of their ir-redium-ation, he and Dr. Bafflegab kidnap Percy to entice Daisy to use her power for them.

In a silly amalgam of characters, plot and action, Lesley Livingston makes Super Sketchy into a caper of kids trying to figure out their skills, including superpowers, amidst the nefarious plans of evil researchers and masterminds and rats and a boisterous assortment of creatures such as Bigfoot, a yeti, Ogopogo, gremlins and goblins.
"...you never want to make a gremlin mad. But you NEVER want to make a goblin mad. Gremlins will just pinch you while you sleep. Goblins will delete your bank account." (pg. 152)
Kids will laugh themselves silly while understanding the need to find something that they're good at. They'll clap for a marmot's rescue, question a rat's motives, and they'll cheer for Bigfoot and his friends. And still Lesley Livingston will leave them wanting to know more about the Boss, a bizarre invitation to a potluck picnic and just what Bernard Cheeper, Department C Projects Coordination, wants from the Almost Epic Squad. With the final volume in The Almost Epic Squad series, Irresistible from Richard Scrimger, due out in October, it won't be long to wait.


For readers who will want to read the whole series, here is a list of all titles in The Almost Epic Squad:

Mucus Mayhem by Kevin Sylvester (Sept., 2018) Reviewed here
What Blows Up by Ted Staunton (Jan., 2019) Reviewed here
Super Sketchy by Lesley Livingston (July, 2019)
Irresistible by Richard Scrimger (Oct., 2019)

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