Trevor Jones has been preparing for the start of seventh grade his entire summer. But he is NOT ready for the news his best friend, Libby, drops on him at the bus stop: he needs to branch out and make new friends.
On the first day of summer vacation when I was twelve years old, I got on my bicycle, rode three miles down the street through a tunnel of new leaves, emerged into lemon-colored sunshine in the middle of town, racked my bike, opened the front door of the library to release its peppery aroma into the juicy green afternoon, and saw a book with a fantastic cover awaiting me on the nearest wooden table: M.C. Higgins The Great.
Sometimes, as I ponder tactics for encouraging the “reluctant readers” in my life (typically late-elementary through middle-school boys), I cast my mind back to an earlier generation’s paragon of averseness, Mikey [Life cereal commercial]. Only instead of confronting Mikey with healthy breakfast cereal, in
In his essay, “Hypocritical Theory,” in Manhood for Amateurs, Michael Chabon opens with the provocative, “I hate Captain Underpants.” Yes, Chabon agrees the popular series written by Dav Pilkey is “lively, well crafted and snappily designed,” and if he was a kid, he’d probably love the books, too. Really, how could he not enjoy the two potty-minded fourth grade boys who invent Super Diaper Baby? What he hates is that the series has co-opted the gross humor that kids use, typically out of earshot of adults. “The original spirit of mockery has been completely inverted; it is now the adult world that mocks children, implicitly and profitably, speaking its old language, invoking its bygone secret pleasures,” writes Chabon.
Back in the days when we drank gallons of Tang and ran wild in the neighborhood like dogs without leashes, these books were called comic books. Now they’re graphic novels and have fancy covers and binding so they don’t fall apart. They’re still action-packed, with lots of sounds spelled out in capital letters and exclamation points (KLANG! OOF! SLAM! WHOOSH!). The plot usually involves the forces of good versus evil. My husband tells me graphic novels, unlike comic books, tend to involve humor.
Doodlers and fans of monsters and comics, unite! From freaked-out moms to thirsty vampires, using clean lines and minimal color, the talented children’s book author and illustrator Mike Herrod offers kids over 30 spook-tacular monster-pieces to finish off with their own drawings. However, it’s the “Magic Monster Pen” that steals the limelight. Kids can use the pen to compose their own secret messages or design their own hidden drawings; it also magically reveals 16 invisible ink picture pages throughout the book. This is an activity book that fans of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid are bound to enjoy. (Ages 7 and up)