Monday, June 18, 2007

Some Books For The Younger Ones

A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat is written for a younger age group than I've written for in the past. Since this is its release week (as you cannot possibly have missed because I talk about it all the time), I thought I'd take a look at some other books written for kids in the primary grades.

And by "written for kids in the primary grades" I mean either books that said as much on their covers or looked as if they might be for younger kids when I scooped them up at the library last Friday. (I hadn't been to the library for weeks. I nearly giddy I was so happy to be there.)

First up is Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. The Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury by Dav Pilkey. Pilkey won fame and acclaim for The Captain Underpants books. I've only read a couple of the books from that series, but I rather liked them. I thought they were clever and used some pretty sophisticated vocabulary for a books in which an elementary school principal wanders around in his briefs.

If The Mutant Mosquitoes From Mercury is any indicator, the Ricky Ricotta books are geared a little younger crowd. The main character is a mouse rather than a human and if there's any of the "questionable" humor that got other adults' knickers in a twist with the Underpants books, I missed it. The book seems a little formulaic--a child has a super robot sidekick and they save the world. I can see why a child would like that, and Pilkey says at his website that he was interested in recreating a kind of story he enjoyed watching on television when he was a child.

Still, I miss the wit and twisted world of Captain Underpants.

Second up is Stink and the Incredible Super-galactic Jawbreaker by Megan McDonald. McDonald is also the author of the Judy Moody series (which I've never read), and Stink Moody is Judy's younger brother.

The Judy Moody books are very well-reviewed and have received numerous honors. This book about Stink, though--Well, let's say I found it instructive. And kind of gimmicky and fake. I got the impression that the book is supposed to be funny. But that was only an impression.

The book appears to have an instructional agenda, to teach children about idioms. Each chapter has an idiom for a title (Mad as a Hornet, for instance). That idiom, as well as others, is used in that chapter. Then each chapter ends with a comic page that illustrates (none too subtly) another idiom.

I'm sure it would be a great book to have in a first or second grade classroom. (Stink is a second grader, by the way, and the age range given on the cover is "Ages 5-8") It screams "teaching tool" to me.

I know it's been a few years since I've been around a lot of kids this age. But we're not talking a generation or anything. I've never heard young kids use expressions like "Jumping jawbreakers!" or refer to someone as a "super-best-friend." The book doesn't seem very natural to me. These kids sound like kids from 1950s television shows, who were hardly natural even then.

My reading quest will continue later this week. And probably next.

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