Vietnamese-Australian author Anh Do has written some of the bestselling children’s book series over the last decade and created a devoted fan base of readers. For younger readers he has written the Weir-Do, Ninja Kid, and Hotdog books, while for an older, middle-grade audience he has written the Wolf Girl, E-Boy, Mythix, and Sky Dragon series’. The Champ! is his latest novel and seems to fall in between both age groups and may act as a reading bridge between the two categories.
Summer is a young girl who has a great passion for all sports, unfortunately her lack of coordination and physical prowess is obvious to even herself. One day as Summer is at home with her older brother Carl, a meteorite strikes their house and leaves Summer covered in a weird purple gloop with a bump on her forehead. As she wakes up in the hospital, she is confronted with the horrible news that her brother Carl has suffered spinal injuries and his sport playing days are most likely over. On her way home from the hospital Summer takes her frustrations out on a nearby soccer ball, sending it sailing through the air.
Realising that this is something she never could have done before, Summer starts to experiment with different sporting skills and realises that she now has an unbelievable affinity with anything sport related. Together with a wheelchair bound Carl, Summer disguises herself as ‘The Champ’ and begins to foil a new town robber’s dastardly plans. But ‘The Champ’ has to face more possible enemies as a government agency, armed with a robotic minion, begin to take an interest in her.
Avid readers of Anh Do’s books will already be able to see from the summary that this book has a similar plot to Sky Dragon, including an orphaned older brother, the protagonist younger sister, a purple meteorite gloop hitting them to give special powers, and a government agency with robots who is trying to track them down. The premise of the book is more inline with Anh Do’s other middle-grade books, however the simplistic writing style has more in common with his younger reader books.
Younger readers who have never read Sky Dragon or Wolf Girl will find this book quite fun and engaging but any reader who is familiar with the other books will find this one a simplified version of Sky Dragon. The illustrations by Dave Atze aim the book towards a younger audience. Overall, I was quite disappointed in this book as the strain to come up with new ideas is clearly showing.