Monday, July 29, 2013

Graphic Novel: LUNCH LADY AND THE MUTANT MATHLETES, by Jarrett Krosoczka

Krosoczka, Jarrett J., 2012.  Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes.  New York, NY:  Alfred A. Knopf.


In book 7 of the Lunch Lady series, the Lunch Bunch—a group of three students—are disciplined by being put on the mathletes team.  Despite their reluctance, they bring home win after win, until only the Willowby Academy stands in their way of the championship win.  But Lunch Lady and her sidekick Betty notice that these Willowby students are strange and decide to investigate.  When the Willowby Academy students show their true mutant selves after losing the final match, Lunch Lady and Betty swoop in as masked avengers to save the day, wielding an arsenal of kitchen utensils.  Naturally, hilarity ensues.


Though this graphic novel for 7-10 year olds is clearly a part of a series, it also stands on its own.  I have not read any other Lunch Lady books and was perfectly able to jump right in.  The only colors are black, white, grey and various values of yellow that add punch to the panels.  Lunch Lady is much like Batman, as in she lacks superpowers of her own.  However, she cares for the students and is a superhero in disguise, along with her sidekick who seems much like Robin.  Superheroes fit into the world of fantasy, though they often seem to be their own genre, not quite fantasy and not always science fiction.  In the case of this book, the Mutant Mathletes are clearly not based in reality, regardless.

In this story, the three students carry much of the plot, but Lunch Lady is always dropping by, serving cookies, serving lunch and asking how they are, so she remains in the reader’s mind even when the action is slower.  The simple cartoon art with the limited color palette makes for dramatic action scenes reminiscent of old-school superhero comic strips. 

Perfect elementary age humor drips off the page, with kitchen implements such as a pineapple mace, jellybean shrapnel and a smoke can of peas playing off the lunch lady theme.  Students this age (as well as adults) will appreciate their exclamations, such as, “Cashew nuts!” or “Moldy bread!”  Clever foodie references are drizzled throughout the book like gravy.

The plot is fast moving and relevant to today’s students.  Most kids will understand the lack of desire to be on the math team, but will also understand the drive to win that the students have by the end.  The dialogue is realistic, as well.  Of course, the mutant mathletes are simply a delightful twist, oozing in an indiscriminate greenish yellow/brown shade.

For any reluctant reader, the combination of fun cartoons, clever dialogue, alien mutant things and witty humor makes this a hit.  The cover wisely shows Lunch Lady in the dramatic showdown against the mutants, guaranteeing a closer look from many elementary and even some middle grade students.  Fortunately, as Dr. Vardell explains, “The beauty of a series, of course, is if a reader enjoys one book, there are many more to read to encourage ongoing reading” (211).  Lunch Lady is definitely part of the “growing body of graphic novels and Japanese manga that is fun, appealing and appropriate for children” (228, Vardell).


"Less complex than other adventures in the series, this one nonetheless retains the host of characters readers will recognize as cartoon versions of real people in their own lives."
--Booklist, May 15, 2012.

“A delightfully fun escapist read.  Be sure to recommend this to fans of Captain Underpants.” – Kirkus Reviews (2012)

“With its appealing mix of action and humor, this clever, entertaining addition to the series should have wide appeal.”  -- School Library Journal (2012)

  • Read the other six books in the series and discuss if this one is indeed less complex as Booklist states.
  • Compare/contrast this series to Captain Underpants, another superhero-in-the-school series.
  • Create a graphic novel of their own, or at least a few panels of a cartoon.


I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this graphic novel.  I don't read graphic novels myself, though I used to read X-Men comics as a child.  I don't like reading Captain Underpants (just not my style of humor), but this one really made me laugh.  All the kitchen references were so clever!

Works Referenced

Pilkey, Dav.  1997.  The Adventures of Captain Underpants.  New York, NY:  Scholastic.

Vardell, Sylvia.  2008.  Children's Literature in Action.  Westport, CT:  Libraries Unlimited.

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