Secret Agents Jack & Max Stalwart: Book 1

stalwart cover

Secret Agents Jack and Max Stalwart: Book 1

The Battle for the Emerald Buddha: Thailand

By Elizabeth Singer Hunt, Illustrations by Brian Williamson

 

Published by: Weinstein Books (July 25, 2017)

Available in: paperback, Kindle, audible

At the time of this review there were two books in the Secret Agents Jack & Max Stalwart series. There are a number of related books in The Secret Agent Jack Stalwart series and The Secret Agent Training Manual series.

 

Power punch.

Secret Agents Jack & Max Stalwart is a new series that wastes no time pulling kids into an adrenaline-filled, contemporary, criminal-and-detective caper that is relevant, educational, and exhilarating. With art history, geography, and social studies throughout, it’s a bit like hiding vegetables in pizza—both parents and kids will be happy.

Author Singer Hunt has proven she knows the secret code to page-turning intrigue in children’s writing. Her previous series, with the older brother from this series as the protagonist, has an impressive sales history and was serialized by BBC Radio. The author keeps things simple while imbuing the text with current references and fast-paced action. Her characters use cool new accessories like a burner cell phone that can’t be traced by police and the grill a young criminal wears on his teeth. And yet, the prose is straightforward, with short sentences and relatively simple vocabulary.

The illustrations by Brian Williamson, unassuming black & white drawings, are edgy enough to be current and bring a clean, forward motion to the page.

I love that the boys, both good and bad, are powerful, independent, and free to make big mistakes and serious contributions. These kids are shown respect by the author. Exciting story components, like tigers, boat escapes, and subterfuge, keep the story moving with ingenuity and pace. In solving the crime, the protagonists show cleverness and daring (and a funny bit of comedy), but they’re also on a vacation with their parents. So although this particular story is unlike what most kids experience, it’s easy to see a connection with other nine- and 12-year-olds.

There are a number of terrific additional content pages, with a map, glossary, explanation of Thai facts, and more. A small gripe, I don’t like that they’re placed in the front of the book, which makes it feel crowded. Also, the typeface is a bit hard to read. But these are minor critiques in an otherwise excellent, daring-duo adventure sure to excite kids—especially boys—into the world of reading.

What do you say teachers, parents, and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

Catwoman’s Nine Lives (Batman: Comic Chapter Books)

catwoman-cover

Catwoman’s Nine Lives (Batman: Comic Chapter Books)

By Matthew K. Manning, Illustrated by Luciano Vecchio

Published by: Stone Arch Books (August 1, 2014)

Available in: paperback, library binding, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were four books in the Batman: Comic Chapter Book series.

Cool cat.

Catwoman’s Nine Lives is a super smart, zippy caper that sets itself firmly in Batman’s Gotham City with a resounding Twang! Fwoom! Click!

The story is solid and fast-paced, and the artwork is spectacular. With The Penguin an additional character, the setting won’t disappoint any Batman fan.

Most impressive are the endnotes of the book that include a detailed biography and background of Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman, and what she does with her stolen money, and why. It adds a depth and social conscience to the action in the book. There also are examples of initial sketches of the book’s artwork, and then final art examples. For any kid interested in art, book production, or the mechanics of imagination, this is a real gem.  There also is a Glossary, a detailed Comics Terms list, and a section titled Visual Questions that delves into facial expressions, an examination of movement methods, and the nature of Batman and Catwoman’s friendship/feud.

And this brings us to the meat of the book: while young readers can merrily enjoy a comic thrill, adults can see this book as way more than a comic strip. There is a very definite sexual tension between Batman and Catwoman that is taut and determined. Catwoman teases, cajoles, and entices Batman, all the while seeming to do what he wants while really keeping her own agenda intact. While maintaining a G Rating throughout, an adult could literally use the text in a college-level analysis of women’s roles, perceptions, and actions within modern society. I think this book is literally brilliant.

And that’s no kitten kibble.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat…. 

Year One Re-post #6: Roscoe Riley Rules

Originally published in November 2013. One of today’s most accomplished and talented writers tackles chapter books with funny bone firmly in place.  I constantly hear the lament, “There’s very little for boys to read.” I say, Thank goodness for Roscoe!

ROSCOE RILEY RULES #1: NEVER GLUE YOUR FRIENDS TO CHAIRS

By Katherine Applegate, Illustrated by Brian Biggs

 

Published by: HarperCollins (May 27, 2008)

Available in: paperback, library binding, Kindle, NOOK, audiocassette, audible audio edition

At the time of this review, there were seven books in the Roscoe Riley Rules series.

 

Mr. Mischief Man.

Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs is one prank after the next, most unintended as mischief. He just has so many rules to remember and, well, it’s hard.

But not hard on the reader. This book, as in all the books in the series, eases kids into the core of the book with exceptionally short chapters at the front. By the time chapters are more than a page or two, it’s already chapter 4. Since Roscoe is in first grade and this is a shorter, easier chapter book, this is perfect for those just attempting the chapter book experience.

And Roscoe is an easy book-friend to make. He speaks directly to the reader, inviting kids on his journey without the threat of suffering his punishment. Which is a given. He will—and does—wind up in time out. But the journey is a glorious romp through misdirected help and maybe a few steps in the I know I shouldn’t but I just can’t help myself direction. Huge fun.

The use of a little sister and big brother for Roscoe also bring a few key elements into the story, allowing Roscoe to prove himself both more and less knowledgeable, depending on the need. He is firmly placed in family life and, although he takes himself out on a limb, he doesn’t hang in the world alone. He signifies a reality that kids can relate to while also allowing them more mischief than they dare in real life. Roscoe is a study in comedic drama for the young set.

Applegate, whose elegant middle grade novel The One and Only Ivan won the Newberry Medal for 2013, displays her serious writing chops in a playful, unencumbered comedy that is nothing but a treat.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….

Roscoe Riley Rules

ROSCOE RILEY RULES #1: NEVER GLUE YOUR FRIENDS TO CHAIRS

By Katherine Applegate, Illustrated by Brian Biggs

 

Published by: HarperCollins (May 27, 2008)

Available in: paperback, library binding, Kindle, NOOK, audiocassette, audible audio edition

At the time of this review, there were seven books in the Roscoe Riley Rules series.

 

Mr. Mischief Man.

Roscoe Riley Rules #1: Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs is one prank after the next, most unintended as mischief. He just has so many rules to remember and, well, it’s hard.

But not hard on the reader. This book, as in all the books in the series, eases kids into the core of the book with exceptionally short chapters at the front. By the time chapters are more than a page or two, it’s already chapter 4. Since Roscoe is in first grade and this is a shorter, easier chapter book, this is perfect for those just attempting the chapter book experience.

And Roscoe is an easy book-friend to make. He speaks directly to the reader, inviting kids on his journey without the threat of suffering his punishment. Which is a given. He will—and does—wind up in time out. But the journey is a glorious romp through misdirected help and maybe a few steps in the I know I shouldn’t but I just can’t help myself direction. Huge fun.

The use of a little sister and big brother for Roscoe also bring a few key elements into the story, allowing Roscoe to prove himself both more and less knowledgeable, depending on the need. He is firmly placed in family life and, although he takes himself out on a limb, he doesn’t hang in the world alone. He signifies a reality that kids can relate to while also allowing them more mischief than they dare in real life. Roscoe is a study in comedic drama for the young set.

Applegate, whose elegant middle grade novel The One and Only Ivan won the Newberry Medal for 2013, displays her serious writing chops in a playful, unencumbered comedy that is nothing but a treat.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….