Friday, June 06, 2008

Children’s Books: The OK Team by Nick Place

Nick Place writes about serious issues and makes them hilarious, while still making his point. His first novel, The Kazillion Wish, featured two children making a wish for an “also-mum” to make their father happy after his divorce. The children -- who had very silly names -- were told they had to earn this wish and went off on a non-stop adventure with lots of silliness and fun.

The OK Team (Allen & Unwin), Place’s new novel, is themed around being happy with what you are and believing in yourself, but he tells it in laugh-out-loud style.

Thirteen-year-old Hazy Retina (again with the absurd names!) has a problem. When he’s frightened or stressed, he has a tendency to fall through walls or just disappear. His parents have become used to it, though his father has the irritating habit of trying to cheer him up with facts about freakish events worldwide. At school, he is teased as a freak. His only comfort is reading his superhero comics.

One night, he is visited by superhero Chameleon (Leon for short) who points out that his supposed disability is actually a power and that he is, in fact, a Hero himself -- Hero, Entry Level, Grade Two, to be precise -- and leaves him with a handbook and a remote control that will gain him access to a special Hero TV channel, which gives the information Heroes need to perform their good deeds against Villains (as opposed to villains). It’s suggested that new Heroes form teams rather than try to work alone.

In his first meeting with the Hero community, Hazy discovers that powers aren’t necessarily useful. They can range from speaking in Morse code to making all your food taste like boysenberry.

When Hazy -- with the new Hero name of Focus -- forms his Hero team, their superpowers don’t seem to be much use either. Beautiful Liarbird can’t tell the truth; her friends communicate by assuming she means the opposite of what she says. Cannonball can fly, but can’t choose his direction and tends to fly into walls. The Torch, grandson of a superhero, can make flames, but only from his index fingers -- not much use to the team, but useful to light villains’ cigarettes. Switchy is a shapechanger, who can change into anything from a crab to an iPod, complete with music, but can’t control it. In fact. he doesn’t actually know what he looks like in his normal body. Yesterday, the Girl Who can See Into The Past, is only with them because she’s Cannonball’s little sister and he has to babysit her.

After this team of klutzes has been defeated 14 times, including once by a bunch of aggressive ten-year-olds, they decide they need some coaching. Fortunately, Torch’s grandfather, whose single power isn’t much help to them, does have some connections in the superhero world and 94-year-old Mr. Fabulous (“You young punks wouldn’t have lasted 10 minutes back in my day.”) is soon on his way to Australia.

In the end, the young Heroes do find a use for their powers, when used together, and when Mr. Fabulous is kidnapped and the Earth is being threatened by a meteor, it’s up to the team to use their powers to find their mentor.

The novel is great fun, and manages to get across its message without hitting you on the head with it. There are many books around in which a bunch of “loser” types work together and succeed, but in this one it isn’t only the kids who need self-confidence, Golden Boy, Australia’s top superhero and Hazy’s hero, has never actually saved the world and is now the only one who can do it. He suddenly loses his confidence in himself -- that’s a huge meteor, what if he can’t do the job? Time is ticking by, and if a superhero can’t stop that meteor from hitting, who can?

The book should appeal to late primary children up to early secondary students and older students who are reluctant readers, especially those who have enjoyed the X-Men stories, though X-Men was never quite like this!

Labels: ,


Blogger max said...


I grew up as a reluctant reader. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries, especially for boys 8 and up, that kids hate to put down. My web site is at and my Books for Boys blog is at
Ranked by Accelerated Reader

Max Elliot Anderson
Message for kids in a bottle

Friday, June 6, 2008 11:48:00 AM PDT  

Post a Comment

<< Home