Ever wonder about the life that the lunch lady leads outside of work? That is exactly what main characters, Hector, Terrence, and Dee contemplate in the graphic novel Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarret J. Krosoczka. Little do these three ordinary, nerdy students know, they will soon join Lunch Lady and her trusty assistant, Betty, on one of the greatest adventures of their lives as they seek to defeat one nefarious teacher’s evil plan to win the Teacher of the Year Award.
Jarrett does an excellent job of pursuing a tongue-in-cheek comedic humor in both his text and illustrations. Throughout the graphic novel, the reader comes across several clever plays on words, which mostly include food. For example, as Lunch Lady speeds away on her motorbike in pursuit of the bad guy, she is seen saying, “I’m on him like cheese on macaroni!” Additionally, all of Lunch Lady’s weapons incorporate both food and food utensils. Throughout the book, she is seen with a spatu-copter (a helicopter made out of spatulas), rubber glove suction cups, cannoli-oculars (binoculars made out of cannolis), and chicken nugget bombs.
Just as clever as the text are the illustrations. Illustrations are seen in shades of yellow and gray and very clearly convey the emotions of the characters. Although the illustrations are very visually stimulating, readers will not be overwhelmed with the amount of illustrations on the page. Jarrett does an outstanding job of interspersing pages that include multiple boxed illustrations and an abundance of text with pages that present illustrations that take up the entire page with minimal text. This balanced illustration/text approach will serve to not overwhelm reluctant or dyslexic readers. As Booklist accurately states “yellow-highlighted pen-and-ink cartoons are energetic and smile-provoking.”
The Scholastic Book Wizards identify this graphic novel as a reading level 2.6 (Scholastic 2013), which means Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Subsistute would be appropriate for second graders reading on grade level. This graphic novel, of course, can be enjoyed by readers in any elementary grade. Parents of elementary children should not be concerned that the material presented in the Lunch Ladies series is inappropriate in any way. There is some violence presented in the text, but no humans are physically hurt and a happy ending will be well received by all.
Although the execution of the novel is predominantly comical, Jarrett does touch on the more serious subject of bullying. The main characters, Hector, Terrence, and Dee are portrayed as the “nerds” in the school who often lack the confidence to stand up to those who may challenge them. Not only will readers be satisfied with a happy ending when Hector, Terrence, and Dee assist in serving justice, but they will also be satisfied and be able to relate to Hector as he confidently stands up to the bully, Milmoe. In regards to bullying, Booklist says, “the kids’ ability to stand up to the school bully shows off their newfound confidence in a credible manner.”
Jarret Krosoczka’s personal website offers a plethora of resources that could be used to enhance a library program. If funding allows (450 dollars per half hour), a virtual author visit could be scheduled. During this session, Jarrett provides a tour of his studio, talks about upcoming projects, and draws a character from one of his books to later be sent to the library/school. Of course, children, hopefully already having read his books, will have a chance to ask questions (Studio JJK n.d.)
A Lunch Lady video game is also available on Jarrett’s website complete with robot cyborgs, spatu-copters, and hair nets. Video game illustrations and some plot points closely resemble the illustrations and plot points portrayed in the graphic novel. (Random House 2012).
Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute was nominated for a 2011 Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award and has received positive reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly.
Books in Print. Texas Woman’s University. Accessed November 29, 2013.
Krosoczka, Jarrett. 2009. Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute. St. Louis: Turtleback. ISBN 978-0375846830
Random House Kids. 2012. “Lunch Lady Legends.” Accessed November 29, 2013. http://www.randomhousekids.com/games/lunch-lady-legends
Scholastic, Inc. 2013. “Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute.” Accessed November 29, 2013. http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/book/lunch-lady-and-cyborg-substitute
Studio JJK. n.d. “Jarrett J. Krosoczka – Virtual Author Visits.” Accessed November 29, 2013. http://www.studiojjk.com/virtualvisits.html