Saturday, March 13, 2021

Cartoon Saturday- Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom

Swanson, Matthew and Behr, Robbi (illus.) 
Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom (Cookie Chronicles #1) 
March 2nd 2021 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Ben goes out to dinner with his aunt while his parents are paying the bills. He's a big fan of noodles, and although he has never been to a Chinese restaurant before, he has a good dinner. At the end, there is a fortune cookie for him that says "Live each day as if it were your last". Sure that he will die soon, he makes a list of activities he wants to accomplish. These include things such as finishing his model of the Taj Mahal... at 1:30 in the morning! He has to get the glue for it out of his parents' closet, waking them up, and his father comes up with his own list of things he wants to do, which includes asking Ben's mother to marry him again. The next morning, Ben's mother has her own plans, so she sends Ben's father off on a six hour round trip to get ice cream so that she can bake a cake. Meanwhile, Ben consults his friend Janet, who has her own list of things to accomplish, including getting a magic apple off of Mrs. Ezra's tree, and giving herself a hair cut. All along, everyone is surprisingly supportive of Ben's plans, although they also say that it seems unlikely that it really is his last day. 
Strengths: Notebook novels are always super popular in my library, even when the characters are younger than middle school age (Ben is 8). The pages of this were particularly well formatted; usually, notebook novels just have page decorations, but this had pages where the whole page was a black and white picture with the text on top of it. Very nice, and rather unusual. Interspersed are pages with more traditional text, so there is still plenty of reading to do. This reminded me a lot of Parisi's Marty Pants, where Marty has all kinds of misconceptions that young readers probably find hysterically funny. I also love that the illustrator and Ben are part Japanese. I have had several students who would see themselves in this book. 
Weaknesses: A tiny bit young, and really, who drives six hours for ice cream? (Not a serious complaint. Insert joking emoji.)
What I really think: My graphic and notebook novels took a big hit during the pandemic, and I'm afraid I might not be able to replace some of them. (Yes, Timmy Failure #3 might just not be in the library.) I was really impressed by the layouts and artwork in this, and the story was humorous enough that I think 6th graders will enjoy it. 

Swanson, Matthew and Behr, Robbi (illus.) 
Ben Yokoyama and the Cookie of Doom (Cookie Chronicles #1) 
March 2nd 2021 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

When his aunt drops off yet another fortune cookie for Ben, he takes the message "Good things come to those who wait" to heart. If he had waited until lunch to eat the cookie, he wouldn't have had to give it to the bossy neighbor girl! With this new philosophy in place, Ben tries to wait for things instead of hopping right into situations. This means that he makes Janet angry when he waits for her to come to him, and she gets soaked, although HE doesn't get wet, so it might be a good plan. Unfortunately, it also means that he gets stuck with Walter for the class scavenger hunt. Walter is the kid with whom no one wants to work, and it's even more awkward because he and Ben used to be good friends. Ben really wants to win the scavenger hunt, and even forgoes waiting so he has a better chance of winning. Walter ends up having a lot of the answers, and Ben really does try to work well with him and be a good friend, even losing dodge ball because he is trying to protect the hapless Walter. It's not always easy to be someone's friend, though, and the two have a falling out. Will Ben be able to both win the scavenger hunt and stay friends with Walter. 
Strengths: The fortune cookie tie-in is a good artifice, even if it isn't as strong as the first book. The class scavenger hunt is fun, and there are some great universal truths in the book. (From the uncorrected proof: "Ben did love dodgeball. But he didn't love how dodgeball made some people feel bad.") This was a great school story, and fun to watch the principal, who shoots baskets and seems to be a very active part of school life. The pages are really well formatted, and all I'll need to do to get a student to check this out is to open the book and show them some of them. Looking forward to the third book, the Cookie of Perfection.
Weaknesses: Ben is in third grade, and there are some things that just seem very young. 
What I really think: I still REALLY enjoyed the page layouts, and it is a good, if somewhat young, story about friendship. The pictures will trick my middle school readers into reading it!

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