Friday, December 5, 2014

The Gollywhopper Games: The New Champion by Jody Feldman, 2014

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
The Golly Toy and Game Company is hosting the regional rounds for the next Gollywhopper Games, and this time it's brother against brother in the physical challenges and mental puzzles. The companion to the popular The Gollywhopper Games will appeal to fans of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's LibraryCharlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Chasing Vermeer.
Chock-full of puzzles, riddles, and challenges for the reader to solve along with the main characters, this fast-paced companion to The Gollywhopper Games is bigger, bolder, and braver! The Golly Toy and Game Company's Gollywhopper Games was such a big success the last time, the company's executives have decided to host the competition again. Cameron and Spencer Schein have scored two highly sought-after slots in the regional round—will one of the Schein brothers make it all the way to the finals? Favorite characters from the first book make guest appearances, and a new cast of competitors, both boys and girls, get set to compete against (and with) Cameron and Spencer. There are twists and turns and complications—as well as lots of great things to eat—in this page-turner of a race to the finish line!

(400 pages)

First, I absolutely loved the first book in this series (it's a series! I only discovered there was a sequel a week ago, and I can't wait for the third one!). Click here to check the first book out on Goodreads - I'm requesting it from the library and plan to review it soon, but I wanted to get this review off my chest first.

Okay, so as you may have already figured out, I loved the original. Sure it wasn't too deep and philosophical, and maybe it was pretty obvious how things would turn out. But you know what? Everyone needs a book like that once in a while. Coming off of reading The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia (Click here to read my review!), I was ready for just the kind of light, fun book The Gollywhopper Games has to offer. So when I was browsing the library and I saw this book, I grabbed it, shoved it in my bag, and started reading it the minute I got in the car. The fun thing about these books is that they're chock full of puzzles that are instrumental to the plot (think Hunger Games or Survivor, but you're beating everybody else at puzzling instead of, you know, scary things. And the prize for winning is a million dollars).

Did I like this book as much as the last one? I'm not sure. I think there's a novelty to the first book that can't be replicated with this one, but The New Champion did as well as it possible could in the follow-up department. Feldman clearly knew that she was writing a book purely because people wanted more of the first one: she even puts that in there, showing the Gollywhopper heads deciding to do another Games because everyone was so obsessed with the first ones. She walks a fine line between drawing fans of the first book, and coming across as totally just ripping off of it. I'd say she succeeded pretty well. There were a few points where I was like "wow, this is like a recast of the first book!" But then it would turn out to be different in some way. It was full of nods to the first book, but still succeeded in being its own original story. Kind of like Mockingjay from the Hunger Games series, I guess. Except this book is for kids.

Well, technically it's for kids. There's nothing inappropriate in it (unless you count one character wearing a tank top for, like, a minute in the first book), so anyone who can understand it can read it. But it's not just a kiddy book, or a spoof of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (though it's that too, and I for one like these books better than the Roald Dahl ones): it's a book for people of all ages. When I finished The New Champion, I handed it off to my mom. When she's done with it, it will go to my middle school-aged brother. Both my brother and my mom loved the first one. My youngest brother (in elementary school) got interested in the books so I requested the first one from the library for him and, let's be honest, myself as well. People of all ages can read and enjoy this book. So please, by all means, read it! Just start with the first one. I promise you won't be disappointed.

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