There’s a lot you can accomplish with good friends at your side. Spend time together at your favorite hangout? Check. Fix big mistakes as a team? Check. Go on a quest inside a video game, defeat monsters and make it back to the real world in one piece? Check…wait, what?
Middle schooler Dewey Jenkins and his friends do all this and much more in My Video Game Ate My Homework, the debut graphic novel from author and illustrator Dustin Hansen. The second DC Kids book to feature original characters in place of the line's familiar superheroes, readers of My Video Game Ate My Homework will find magic, adventure and colorful characters who may mess up at times, but never give up. Altogether, it’s a fantastic adventure in which kids, in particular those who consider reading a challenge, will find a lot to identify with and enjoy.
Dewey's friend Ronald Ferguson, Ferg to his friends, is in big trouble. He found a brand-new virtual reality (VR) gaming console in his dad’s office…and he broke it. Ferg turns to the mechanically-minded Dewey for his expertise in fixing it. Along with his sister Beatrice and her friend Katherine, Dewey agrees to help out Ferg without a moment’s hesitation.
While Dewey is working on repairing the advanced gaming system, things go a little haywire and it zaps his science project into VR. Unfortunately, he needs that project to pass his science class and avoid summer school, so Dewey and his friends head into the VR world of the game to find and bring back his missing homework. However, this being a game, finding the lost assignment will require quick thinking, puzzle-solving and more than a few boss fights.
Once inside the virtual world, Dewey and friends find they have been transformed into a costume-clad party of adventurers. Each wields a special weapon personalized to their video game self, like the powerful Hammer of Athena for Kat and the formidable Bumblebuzz Shield for Beatrice. (You’ll just have to read the book to see why the high-spirited Ferg is so pleased with his new ability for when things get hairy.)
Dewey is dismayed to discover that rather than a weapon, he is granted a book with infinite pages—reading is difficult for him because of his severe dyslexia. But he quickly learns that it’s no ordinary book—it’s The Eldest Book—and it’s about to become indispensable on their quest to save his homework.
Dewey’s difficulties with reading land him in hot water almost immediately when he can’t decipher a clue correctly. But when he fails, Dewey gets back up and keeps going. For kids who may have learning disabilities like the young engineer, seeing him continue to overcome obstacles and cope with his dyslexia is something they can both identify with and be inspired by.
Author Dustin Hansen had those kids in mind specifically while crafting this graphic novel. The challenges Dewey faces in the story are personal for the talented author, who also struggled with dyslexia as a child. Hansen even went so far as to ask elementary school children with learning disabilities to read the book while it was in development to make sure he was meeting their needs.
The layout for My Video Game Ate My Homework was planned with deliberate color choices and thoughtful visual clues for kids who might find the letters and dialog bubbles tough to read. But most of all, those young readers will appreciate seeing Dewey’s troubles become a vital part of his story. He voices the very real frustrations they face every day, and dyslexic kids will be glad to find a kindred spirit within the book’s pages.
Children who are reluctant readers because they have a hard time finding stories that engage them will also find a lot to love in this original graphic novel. Not only do the playful illustrations and personality-packed characters grab your attention immediately, there are tons of details for DC fans of all ages to find on just about every page. While this book doesn’t take place in the DC Universe itself, there are winks and nods to some of our favorite characters hidden within. We see you, Gotham Academy students.
By the end of the story, Dewey considers The Eldest Book a real friend. With the (literal) support of his human friends and the book at his side, he takes on his troubles directly in a final fiery battle. You might be surprised at how it all turns out…
Kelly Knox writes about all-ages comics and animation for DCComics.com and her writing can also be seen on IGN, Nerdist, Geek & Sundry and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk superheroes, comics and crafts.