How to Beat Genghis Khan in an Arm Wrestle, Nick Falk (author), Tony Flowers (illus.), Random House, 2016
Author Nick Falk and illustrator Tony Flowers have created a number of books together in the past, including the popular Samurai vs. Ninja series. Like those books, How to Beat Genghis Khan in an Arm Wrestle is loads of fun and a guaranteed page turner. It is also one of the first in the new ‘How To’ series from the pair.
The short novel (it comes to around 170 pages) centres on the main character Sid, who is not known for his fearlessness, but who finds an inner strength by the end. Sid is joined by his best friend and genius neighbour, Mighty Professor Skeletron, and his pesky but perky little sister Wendy. The story features big bad bullies, comic books, time travel, Ghengis Khan and the Mongol Empire, cool inventions and plenty of other things to get kids excited.
How to Beat Genghis Khan in an Arm Wrestle is the perfect book for reluctant readers (especially young boys), since it contains short chapters, playful language, and plenty of bodily-function jokes and best-friend riffs. With the addition of Sid’s spunky little sister and the general hilarity that ensues throughout, the book will also find many female fans.
While many people dismiss humorous series as somehow being less beneficial for young readers, this one has it all, teaching children in a clever way about particular times in history and relevant famous figures. In How to Beat Genghis Khan in an Arm Wrestle, kids learn specifically about Genghis Khan, the Mongol Empire, and the culture of the time (clothing, food, customs etc.). Information is woven throughout the story, plus additional multiple choice questions and corresponding answers are added at the back for extra insight.
The book also tackles quite serious themes that can prompt discussions and understanding. For instance, it addresses bullying, working together, conquering fears, sibling relationships, and friendship.
The black and white illustrations created by Tony Flowers add a lot to this energetic read, and will have kids snorting with laughter and engaging even more. The story and the art work beautifully together too. Another nice visual touch that has been included in the book is the addition of diagrams and instructions for some of Professor Skeletron’s inventions. Children who like to create their own things are sure to enjoy poring over these pages.