The King of Average by Gary Schwartz (2015)
Middle Grade Fiction | Contemporary | Humor
Published: October 7, 2015
James isn’t the world’s greatest kid, but he’s not the worst, either: he’s average! When he decides to become the most average kid who ever lived, James is transported to
another world where he meets Mayor Culpa, a well-dressed talking Scapegoat who recruits him to become the new King of Average. He’s joined on his quest by a professional Optimist and his grouchy companion, an equally professional Pessimist. Together, they set out on a journey of self-discovery that leads them all the way from the Sea of Doubt to Mount Impossible, the highest peak in the Unattainable Mountains. When James stumbles into a Shangri-la called Epiphany, he uncovers the secret of who he really is.
Follow James on his hilarious, adventure-packed journey to find self-worth in this heartfelt middle grade novel by debut author Gary Schwartz.
Gary Schwartz began his professional career as a mime at age 13, performing up and down the Hudson River with Pete Seeger and the great folk entertainers of the 1960s. In the 1980s he appeared in numerous film and television projects including the Oscar-winning feature film Quest for Fire. Schwartz has lent his voice to hundreds of film and TV projects and is the voice of several well-known video game characters, including Heavy Weapons Guy and Demoman in Team Fortress 2.
Schwartz has written for two children’s television series in which he co-starred: Zoobilee Zoo, where he played Bravo Fox; and the Disney Channel’s You and Me, Kid.
Schwartz studied with and became the protégé of Viola Spolin, the creator of Theater Games, the basis for improvisational theater in America. He is a passionate, dynamic improv coach and facilitator devoted to carrying on Spolin’s techniques.
The King of Average is his first novel.
Q: What inspired you to write The King of Average? How did this idea come up?
A: My own personal story was about surviving abuse by parents who struggled with mental illness and my struggle to break the cycle of abuse (which can be passed down unknowingly). It shaped my life and guided me toward seeking acceptance through entertainment and teaching. I feel proud that I’ve managed to marry both those goals in my book, The King of Average.
I was always told what a burden I was by my mother and how much trouble I caused her. This caused me to believe it was true. But I rebelled at that idea by age 11 and convinced myself that I wasn’t so bad. In fact, I determined I was average. Then I decided to see if I could aspire to be more average than anyone else. That thought tickled me and kept me from succumbing to a huge inferiority complex.
I was reading The Phantom Tollbooth at the time and modelled my story on it. I loved its clever wordplay and puns. It only took 52 years to get around to writing it. Along the way I learned a lot about myself, and included that allegorical journey in the book.
The most gratifying comments come from parents who use the book to teach life lessons.
Here’s a quote from a parent:
I just wanted to let you know that my 10-year-old son and I have been reading your book aloud together. We are on chapter 17 now, and we are having a great time with it! We have voices for each of the characters based on their perfectly-depicted personalities, and we crack each other up reading them!
At the same time, we’ve had some powerful discussions about James’s home life and the self-talk he’s developed because of it, and how his thoughts create his biggest challenges. Like all great children’s books, this one has a lot to teach. I’ve told some of my teacher friends about it too, and suggested they might get copies to read aloud in their classrooms, especially since we have so many children struggling with difficult home lives and negative self-perceptions.
I will be happy to write a glowing review once Aidan and I have finished reading, but I wanted you to know that you’ve given us a lot of pleasure already. Thank you so much! — Annie Portman
PS (I’m a school counselor in a public school with very high needs.)
Thank you so much for sharing your story and your book! It sounds fantastic and I hope more people will go out and read it for theirselves 🙂
Similar Recommended Reads: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster