Friday, May 29, 2009
A Lovely Little Find
I was in the library earlier this week, looking at all the special powers books on the new books' shelf in the children's area. By which I mean books about kids learning they have special powers or having special powers and going to special schools to develop them or kids in some kind of fantasy world full of special powers. I understand that children enjoy reading the same kinds of things over and over, and I respect their desire to do that. But, man, it's hard for an adult working in kidlit not to keel over from the sameness of it all.
So imagine my delight when I saw a book about something so mundane as writing thank you notes. Really, we have gotten to a point in children's literature where the mundane is unusual.
Some people might think that Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes by Peggy Gifford is a little gimmicky. The chapters are short with titles that sort of bleed into them. Take Chapter 25, for instance:
In Which Mark Says No
Plus, young Moxy falls asleep at odd times. And the book uses a third-person narrator who sometimes intrudes into the story.
Other people might point out a couple of stereotypes, like the odd little sister and the divorced dad who makes plan to see his kids but never carries through with them.
However, Moxy Maxwell isn't trying to be Anna Karenina (which, to be perfectly honest, I've never been able to get through). Moxy Maxwell is trying to be a light, clever, amusing story about a girl who is close to over-the-top but in a funny way that doesn't have time to get annoying because the book is so short. And it does that very well.
There's a real storyline here about poor Moxy, who must finish writing her Christmas thank you notes before heading to California with her brother to finally visit their father, a former soap opera actor who is out in Hollywood hunting for a Big Deal. We're not talking random jokes or actions, which is what you sometimes find in books for this age group. But what's most admirable about this book is that it's a funny story for younger kids that treats its readers with respect. The author doesn't assume that child readers only laugh at toilet humor and funny sounds. This is lightish entertainment that a kid doesn't have to feel embarrassed about having read.
And a word about the illustrations, which are photographs by Valerie Fisher--the pictures are supposed to be taken by Moxy's brother as the story is taking place. What we have is a little mixed media going here, and it works better than some more sophisticated attempts that I've seen.
I read a paperback edition, which would be perfect for tucking into a camp trunk this summer, or bringing along for a family vacation.