The Short but Brilliant Career of Lucas Weed is the latest (2017) winner of the Tom Fitzgibbon award, awarded to a manuscript from a previously-unpublished author. And I can see the appeal. It is a lot of fun, with Lucas Weed being a fairly ordinary school boy, someone easy for the audience to relate to. The new kid in school, he is neither popular nor unpopular, which is – he thinks – the way he likes it. But is it?
One day, he stumbles upon some other boys in the midst of plotting a prank. His curiosity leads him to be noticed, and he is inadvertently drawn into the scheme. It involves a frog, a backpack, and a teacher, and thus begins Lucas Weed’s short, but brilliant, career as a prankster.
Weed’s pranks are never cruel (except perhaps to the poor frog), mostly harmless, and never bullying. The main target is generally himself, and Lucas is not afraid to make a spectacle. Thus I feel this was more a “class clown” situation than a pranking one. His plotting to make himself look the fool leads to the next stage: becoming a YouTube sensation. A fairly low-key, and short-lived one, but I suspect for a 10-year old, even a few hundred hits is something to be proud of.
After a while, the continued deception (after all, the teachers are not fools) and stress of devising more creative pranks begins to be exhausting, and thus Lucas plans one final prank – which culminates far more spectacularly than he and his new ‘friends’ could ever conceive.
Intended for a 7-10 age group, this extremely readable and very relatable book comes stocked with a healthy dash of humour, including the expected quota of fart jokes. Fans of Tom Gates, Wimpy Kid, and other school-based middle grade fiction should readily devour it.
Reviewed by Angela Oliver
The Short but Brilliant Career of Lucas Weed
by Chrissie Walker
Published by Scholastic NZ