Saturday, August 17, 2019

Cartoon Saturday-- More Notebook Novels

King, Zach. Mirror Magic (Zach King #3)
December 31st 2018 by HarperCollins
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

After his adventures in My Magical Life and The Magical Mix-Up , Zach has reawakened his magical abilities, but is keeping this a secret from his family so that he doesn't have to go back to being homeschooled. His friends Rachel and Aaron always help him out, and the three of them are involved with the school play. After a disastrous incident with a magical paint brush, Zach has an accident with a magical mirror he discovered in the attic when his mom had him cleaning things out. Zach travels through the mirror into an alternate reality, Reverse World. There, he is Jak, and he attends a magical school. His friends have powers, as well as slightly different names and personalities. Tricia is nice, Rachel is timid, Aaron likes dogs, and his mother is a horrible cook! While Zach is in this world, Jak has come into our place of existence, and is having to adjust to all of the changes. Unless Zach cam figure out what has happened, both he and Jak will be stuck and unable to return to their own realities. Will the two boys be able to count on their friends in order to solve the mystery?

Mr. King is a You Tube presence who specializes in videos that make it look like he is doing magic tricks. Zach has struggled over the last few books trying to figure out what his abilities are. It looked as if he did not have any abilities, which is why his family sent him to public school, but it turns out that he can take other people's magic implements (his mother has a ring, his father a watch, and his sister a pair of glasses) and use them himself. The attic that his mother had him clean was full of family heirlooms that all had magical qualities, including the mirror.

The thing that I like best is Zach's relationship with Aaron and Rachel. Aaron is a good friend (who has a cute cat), who supports Zach no matter what goes wrong. And a lot goes wrong! Zach has a crush on Rachel because she is fearless and brave, and she pushes Zach to work through his difficulties instead of giving up.

There are some graphic novel style pages in between chapters, and this is a big draw for readers who like books like Holm's Squish: Super Amoeba and Vernon's Dragonbreath, but want somewhat longer books. Zach is a fun character who would be right as home at a cafeteria table sitting next to Greenwald's Charlie Joe Jackson, Peirce's Big Nate, or Beaty's Dorko the Magnificent.

Russell, Rachel Renee. Masters of Mischief (Max Crumbly #3)
June 13th 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

When we last saw Max and Erin, they had just thwarted three inept burglars and were headed for a garbage dumpster. That's where they are now, in the middle of the night, trying to figure out a way to get home. As luck would have it, they make it out of the fenced dumpster area and end up in the back of a crowded pick up truck... which is of course being driven by the burglars! They manage to jump out, find a bike and wagon to use to get home, and then have to explain what they were doing. Since Max still has not returned his father's valuable comic book to him, he's hoping to fly under the radar, but that is hard to do since his sister and crabby neighbor saw him come in late at night. Max's father wants him to help clean the garage, and there is a goofy run in with Mr. Howell and Max's father. When the criminals show up at the school again, will Erin and Max be able to head them off, or will they be headed for another adventure in the dumpster?

Like Kinney's Wimpy Kid books, the Dork Diaries and Max Crumbly have a cult following of young readers who like the hand drawn font, copious illustrations and goofy adventures. Max spends a lot of time opining on minutiae, such as why the trash bin at the school is so heavily guarded while the computers have no security at all. He also spends a lot of time imaging things, from soaring in his super hero cape to magically building muscles through light exercise.

The plot is sort of the reverse of books like Johnson's The Great Green Heist, Max Rylander's The Fourth Stall or Ferraiolo's The Quick Fix in that Max and Erin are not fomenting goofy criminal hijinks, but trying to prevent them. There are still mad chases through air ducts, hacking into security systems, and trying to hide their actions from parents, but our heroes are trying to stop the thieves, not perpetrate crimes of their own.

The big draw of these books is, of course, the illustrations, which have a Manga style air to them, with big eyes and exaggerated expressions. While I don't quite see the appeal of the books, they are undoubtedly popular with young readers, who will have to wait until the next book to find out how Max gets out of his latest scrape.

Pichon, Liz. Tom Gates: Extra Special Treats (Not)
April 22nd 2019 by Candlewick Press
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

When Marcus Meldrew gets a Star Pupil Badge, Tom decides that he will try to mend his ways and earn one himself, since students sporting the badge get preferential treatment from teachers. This gets off to a rocky start, since Tom rarely has his textbook or extra papers, and he has a tendency to doodle unflattering pictures of Mr. Fullerman. That's okay; winter is closing in, and soon school is canceled. Tom looks forward to spending time at home, locating his mother's secret stashes of chocolate covered raisins, but his uncle, aunt and cousins descend to plan The Fossil's fiftieth wedding anniversary party and end up staying because their heat is out. The posh family isn't keen on roughing it, although Tom notices that his cousins don't turn up their nose at the snacks provided! At least the family has time to plan an epic anniversary party and gift, and grandma gets the opportunity to knit lots of wooly garments to mail to the family. There's some snow sculpting and outside activity, some DogZombie band practice, and as always, caramel wafers and grandma's sketchy cooking!

I have always been a sucker for a book with a good snowstorm, from Haywood's Snowbound with Betsy (1963) to Kinney's Cabin Fever (2010). While I am not impressed with the British snowfall (it seems like just a couple of inches knocks out power supplies; it's not the three feet of snow that, say, Buffalo, New York is apt to get), the resultant family togetherness is just as much fun.

Of all the characters, I think that Granny Mavis is my favorite. Her sundae-inspired sweaters, complete with cherries atop the hats, are beyond awesome, and her peaches and pasta and cornflakes and chicken are the sort of quirky, passive-aggressive subterfuge that should get one excused from all further cooking duties! Give me a souped up golf cart to drive back and forth from the Leafy Green Old Folks Home, and I'd be glad to party with The Fossils as well!

Tom would be a good companion to Peirce's Big Nate; they are both well meaning but misguided boys with a boundless enthusiasm for what they hold dear. These notebook novels are the homemade apple pie with whole wheat crust of children's literature; books that are sweet and satisfying while still being nutritious enough to be served occasionally, even for breakfast.

Jeans and t shirts. That's all I can manage on the weekends. I understand casual clothing even less than I understand work clothing. Most of my tennis shoes are trail shoes, thanks to the last nine years of coaching cross country.

A friend gave me this t shirt that says "Easily distracted by dogs and books".

Sylvie approves.

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