The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School is an absolutely crazy book, ranging from the wild to the ridiculous, but is funny and somehow true to life all the way. Through the tale of Wilmer Dooley, an aspiring sixth grade scientist, Fowler DeWitt examines a number common middle grade themes in this wacky tale.
The book is told in first person person, so we get to know Wilmer pretty well. His dad is a scientist who works with food and has invented something called the SugarBUZZZZ!-a kids snack line full of sugar. Wilmer wants to be a scientist like his dad, and there’s a lot of pressure on him to win the sixth grade science award, just like his old man did.
Unfortunately, Wilmer has some enemies. First is Mrs. Padgett, his Biology teacher, who hates him because he knows more about science than her despite the fact that she has an advanced degree. She wants Claudius to win, a kid who has a famous doctor for a father but who doesn’t know anything about science. Claudius is always snooping around and trying to steal and take credit for Wilmer’s ideas.
Plus, Wilmer has got Roxie to worry about. Wilmer thinks Roxie is the most awesome girl in the sixth grade, but he always worries he’s doing the wrong thing and that she’s not paying attention to him at all.
Soon, though, Wilmer has bigger problems; the entire school has come down with a mysterious disease that is causing them to change colors, and no one knows what’s going on. At first all the kids are acting hyper and jumpy, but as time goes on they start to slow down and even get close to dying!
Wilmer knows it’s up to him and his science skills to save the day. It’s not going to be easy, but he has to develop an antidote to the virus or else everyone at his school is going to drop dead. Not only that, but it’s a perfect opportunity to win the sixth grade science award and impress Roxie!
This is a good book on the whole. It is very funny and of course completely unbelievable, but it’s very fun and that’s the way that it’s meant to be. As I mentioned, it talks about a number of themes: A boy trying to get a girl, trying to live up to your parents, dealing with enemies, and having a fight with your best friend.
The main problem with the book to me is that it will only really appeal to a niche readership. The age range listed for the book is 2nd to 5th grade, but it is hard for me to imagine a second grader reading it, and the romance part is more fitted towards a somewhat older audience. On the other hand, older kids won’t like it simply because of how crazy the plot and characters are. I’d say it would appeal most to boys in 4th to 5th grades.
I also don’t like how the author tries to tie everything together at the end of the book by having everyone just help each other and come together. In the end Claudius, who has been a huge enemy of Wilmer throughout the whole book, suddenly is necessary for Wilmer to complete the mission. Wilmer has also been working on his own throughout the entire story, but in the end it becomes necessary to ask his dad. That is fine, but the author makes a big deal about preaching how you need help, when it would’ve been much better to simply let the story do the talking.
In the end, this is a good book. It also has a sequel, The Amazing Wilmer Dooley, in which Wilmer goes to 7th grade. Perhaps funnier than anything in the book is how the author manages to speak to everyday things in kids lives in the form of some of the most crazy characters and events I’ve seen yet.