Lunch Lady and the Bake Sale Bandit
written by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
The plot of this fifth volume of Jarrett Krosczka's Lunch Lady series is all in the title: Someone has stolen the goodies from the school bake sale, and it's up to Lunch Lady and her sidekick/helper, Betty, to solve the crime, with a bit of help from the three kids known as the Breakfast Bunch.
The story starts out with the Breakfast Bunch escaping the rain by taking the school bus, where they make the acquaintance of Brenda, the meanest bus driver ever. Brenda hates kids because they are noisy and mess up her bus, and she greets everyone except the principal with a snarl.
The bunch next run afoul of Orson, a student safety officer who is a bit too big for his britches. Defying his barked orders, they deliver their baked goods to the cafeteria for the sale before heading to health class, where their teacher delivers a harangue on the evils of sugary foods.
And then disaster strikes: While Lunch Lady and Betty are outside, handling a delivery of taco shells, the power goes out, and when the lights go on again, the bake sale goodies have disappeared.
Part of the charm of these books is that Lunch Lady is the school cafeteria's answer to Maxwell Smart, armed with all sorts of food-related spy gadgets: A spork cell phone, a cookie camera, and so forth. Unfortunately, the more sophisticated gadgets, such as the banana boomerang, the fish-stick nunchucks, and the taco night-vision goggles are missing from this story. Instead, Lunch Lady uses a more conventional surveillance system and motorbike to track down the culprit.
There's a lot to like about the Lunch Lady stories: The Lunch Lady and Betty are funny and larger than life, the plots are a good mix of mystery and action, and the characters reflect a kid's-eye view of school. Adults concerned about nutrition and pedestrian safety might take exception to the characterizations of the health teacher and Orson, but they reflect the general dislike that children have for being told what to do.
Krosoczka's art makes these stories easy to follow. He uses simple, uncluttered panels that focus on the action without excessive backgrounds, and he limits the number of panels on a page to four or fewer. The dialogue is simple too, broken up into short pieces with just one or two word balloons per panel. The books are printed in black and white and yellow, so the palette is limited, but Krosoczka uses strong blacks, whites, and bursts of pure yellow to guide the eye.
Lunch Lady and the Bake Sale Bandit offers a humorous take on grade-school life combined with a cartoony action story—just the sort of thing a bored student might dream up on a rainy day.