The Reading List: The Dodgeball Chronicles (Knights of the Lunch Table)

The Dodgeball Chronicles (Knights of the Lunch Table) by Frank Cammuso

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When I attended the Small Press Expo, an event for independent comics creators and small publishers, I was keeping my eyes open for engaging all-ages books. There are more graphic novels aimed at the younger set coming out, so it wasn’t hard to locate some good examples. But Frank Cammuso’s table was so nicely set up with eye-catching banners featuring his Knights of the Lunch Table series, this book was the first purchase I made that weekend.

I wasn’t disappointed. As you might guess from the title, there is an Arthurian strain to this title. You can’t miss it when you discover the protagonist’s name is Artie King, a new student a Camelot Middle School. And in case you weren’t sure, his science teacher Mr. Merlyn might help clue you in.┬áThese touches could be overpowering if handled badly, but in Cammuso’s hands, they serve as nice rewards for those familiar with the tales of the Round Table. Class bully Joe Roman and his gang, the Horde, are a nice touch here, as are friends with names such as Percy, Wayne and Gwen.

Artie is a nicely done character, with both strengths and flaws. One flaw is his bragging. His claim to have been dodgeball champion at his previous school (the kid can’t actually play dodgeball) traps him in a challenge match against dodgeball champions Joe Roman and his cohorts. The fun is in the quest to prepare for this challenge, and in the way Artie and his friends finally fare in the game.

The art is terrific, drawn in a rubbery, big-head style that is appealing and very appropriate to the story. Cammuso is a very clear visual story-teller, so even those new to graphic novels will have no trouble following the action. Though the target audience is obviously boys aged 8-12 or so, the book is good fun for older readers too. Nothing is dumbed down and there are so many little side jokes that you need to reread it just to catch a portion of them. If you know a younger reader who loves comics or who is a reluctant reader, this book would make a great gift.

There are two books in the series. I read this one in the hotel room after buying it, and the next day returned and bought the second (equally good) book. I’d say that’s a recommendation.