As my adopted city stares down the barrel of yet another potentially devastating hurricane, I feel compelled to share the stories that we found comfort in during a tough time for our family. In my continuing quest to bring you the best books for boys, today’s offering is The Bad Guys series, written and illustrated by Aaron Blabey. My son and I stumbled upon these books back in 2017, shortly after our home was destroyed during Hurricane Harvey.
During this time, it was super important to me and my husband that we do our best as parents to keep the situation as calm and functional as possible. In the grand scheme, we were actually very fortunate; we were renting the home that had been ravaged by floodwaters, we had excellent insurance, we were able to evacuate before the storm came in so we spared our child the trauma of a boat or helicopter rescue (which most definitely happened in our area).
However, we had also recently moved our son 5,000 miles from the only home he’d ever known; away from grandparents, cousins and his school. He’d weathered that huge change beautifully and now 3 months later, we were asking him to manage another big change. He was due to start kindergarten on the day our home flooded, so add that to the growing list of obstacles being shouldered by a 5 year old and you can begin to understand why something as simple and soothing as a predictable bedtime routine was so important to us.
Okay, now that you know the back story…
I don’t actually remember how we came across The Bad Guys. My husband may have found the series during his own search of ‘books for boys’ online. Our son had just started reading and we were looking for ways to interest him in stories longer than the little readers sent home by his teacher. In The Bad Guys, you’ll find approximately 140 fully-illustrated pages of comic-style, daring caper goodness! Many different font styles and sizes are used, which add interest to each page.
The stories are (originally) centered on 4 former Bad Guys: Mr. Wolf, Mr. Shark, Mr. Snake and Mr. Piranha. Mr. Wolf will serve as our main storyteller throughout the series, which currently includes 11 books, with a 12th to be released in November 2020. Speaking directly to the reader, the first chapter mostly consists of Mr. Wolf trying to convince us of his good intentions. He’s not a villain, he’s just misunderstood. Everything you’ve ever heard about him has been misconstrued. These proclamations contrast against his rap sheet from the Metropolitan Police Department, where you read that he’s been convicted of the crimes found in the pages of The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood, among other misdeeds.
In the second chapter, we are introduced to Mr. Wolf’s gang. Mr. Shark, Mr. Snake and Mr. Piranha are fellow bad guys with rap sheets a mile long but in similar fashion, the accusations of wrongdoing are fabricated, merely a misunderstanding between themselves and society. The other guys seem perfectly content with their standing in the world but Mr. Wolf has had enough. He has a plan that will set the entire gang on a more respectable and fulfilling path in life. He announces that the real reason he’s called them all together is for the very first meeting of the Good Guys Club!
But… not everyone is on board with the idea. Not in the least. The other guys aren’t bothered at all by their villainous status in the community. In fact, they revel in their ability to strike fear in others. But Mr. Wolf isn’t about to give up that easily. Sure, the other guys aren’t completely on board with the 180 degree lifestyle change yet but he’s not about to give up yet. He decides to take the gang for a ride around town in his souped-up sports car. When asked what they’re doing, Mr. Wolf answers that as usual, they’re looking for trouble. Only this time, when they find it, they’re going to do the right thing and help whoever’s in need.
The other guys are completely confused. What’s gotten into Wolfie? It’s not long before he spots the first recipient of their newly minted good-naturedness. It’s a cat stuck high in a tree, which ordinarily would have been considered an easily acquired snack for any one of the Bad Guys. But not this time. No, they are going to rescue this trapped tabby. Except for the fact that the cat is well aware of that each of his would-be ‘rescuers’ are known predators who could easily gobble him up. Despite their best attempts, they can’t help but be menacing with their sharp teeth and threatening voices.
As to whether this plan is successful, I think it’s best that you find out for yourself. There’s also a second ‘helpful’ attempt in which Mr. Wolf spearheads the ‘rescue’ of 200 dogs from the city’s dog pound. Is it really a rescue or more like a panic-fueled flee from danger? Will the Bad Guys reinvent themselves and become full-fledged Good Guys? If so, will society buy their newfound identities? Will you read this book or will he devour it on his own? You’ll have to read the book to find out. Enjoy!