Originally published in April 2014. Calvin was one of my favorite finds this year, both because of his Hawaiian location and utter boy-ness. I kind of love Calvin.
Published by: Yearling (January 8, 2013)
Available in: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, NOOK
At the time of this review there were nine books in this series.
The Calvin Coconut series has a lot going for it. The boy protagonist is a cool kid—not too smart, a little lazy, kind of funny and nice when needed. He frets over the annoying girl who sits next to him at school and avoids chores. He’s a boy other boys can identify with, which in chapter books is golden.
The family dynamics also make these books feel authentic and contemporary—a single mom with a no-nonsense but generous boyfriend, a younger sister and a teen who lives in the house who is not biological family. It’s the kind of family structure that so many kids know as reality. Seeing that in print makes kids feel validated in their world.
And Jacqueline Rogers’ illustrations are loose and breezy, which fit both the action and locale perfectly.
All those are important. But what Calvin Coconut has that sets it apart is a deep, genuine feel for the setting in Hawaii. This is not tourist-poster Hawaii of Waikiki, bikinis and massive waves. This is slippers and bufos, shave ice and slang like “ho” used as a general greeting, saying or agreement. This is recognition of the hills and valleys that make up the islands’ interiors, waterfalls that go up, hurricanes and rain that ruin plans, and the great moonscape that is the Kona Coast on the Big Island.
Calvin’s world is both exotic because of the island setting, and yet easy to dip into. It feels livable, believable and just different enough to be really interesting. Refreshing.
Calvin Coconut: Man Trip can be forgiven a slow start as it progresses into one of the coolest of chapter book activities to date: deep-sea fishing. It’s also sweet that Calvin’s mom’s boyfriend is the instigator of this day trip. Other books in the series focus often on animals, including Calvin Coconut: Dog Heaven and Calvin Coconut: Zoo Breath.
What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….