Books — Chuck Dugan is AWOL

For summer readers; Wild about Harry, wilder about Chuck

Chuck Dugan is AWOL, by Eric Chase Anderson, Chronicle Books, 2004, 223 pages

By Lisa Parsons

Reasons why Chuck Dugan is AWOL beats Harry Potter for summer reading:

1. Summertime ambience. Chuck Dugan actually takes place during summer and has a vacation-y feel. a. Water scenes. The entire book takes place on the ocean, in the ocean or near the ocean. b. Island scenes. With gardens and tennis courts and a drink called a Panama Canal served on a silver tray by the catering company.

2. Relevance. You ain’t never going to get on Platform 9 3/4, but you conceivably could discover a sunken treasure off the coast of Maine. a. Spy cameras. b. Emergency Rescue Buoy No. 49. c. TOP SECRET U.S. Navy files. d. The “popcycle,” a powered submersible bicycle.

3. Cool characters. Yes, Rowling is good with character names, but then again there’s something thrillingly book-geeky about an adventure story with characters named Stretch, Brace, Bradshawe, Joe Quartermaster, Harry Aloha and the Admiral. And Sally Wisebadger. And Chuck, a.k.a. Midshipman Dugan.

4. Illustrations. Eric Chase Anderson drew his own color illustrations, which are all engrossing maps and diagrams, and they are sprinkled throughout the book.

5. Portability. At half the weight of a Harry Potter, Chuck Dugan won’t break your wrist if you try to read it in your beach chair.

6. Stark white pages and cool typeface.

7. Humor. Chuck Dugan incorporates real, subtle humor, unlike anything in HP. It is readable by mature-enough children, but not aimed especially at them.

8. No hype.  a. Fresh face. Hollywood is wearing Harry thin. b. Chuck is Chuck. Whereas Harry now is Daniel Radcliffe. c. No unavoidable spoilers floating around in the pop culture.  d. Stamina. The enjoyment of Chuck Dugan is steady and lasting, whereas the HP experience has become a matter of inflated anticipation followed by a short burst of thrill (24 hours after the book release people are bragging that they’ve finished it) which quickly collapses because now it’s all over for another two years. You stood in line at midnight for what? e. No crass fast-food tie-ins.

9. Imagination. HP has plenty of imagination but it’s all J.K. Rowling’s or some film director’s. Chuck Dugan is about your own imagination and Chuck’s. And Chuck has to do all his inventing without a magic wand. (He does, however, have a trusty buck-knife.)

10. Chuck. Is he some kind of wily kid engaged in a giant game of cops and robbers? Or is he really a respectable brand-spanking-young naval officer? Turns out it doesn’t matter.

2005 HippoPress LLC | Manchester, NH