Cal and the Amazing Anti-Gravity Machine
By Richard Hamilton, Illustrated by Sam Hearn
Published by: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (April 18, 2006)
Available in: hardcover, paperback, audio CD
At the time of this review this was a standalone book.
Cal and the Amazing Anti-Gravity Machine is a quirky, contemporary fantasy that sends a boy and his dog on an excellent adventure. But don’t be fooled by the entertaining, silly high jinx–this is no dumbed-down tale.
First, it’s written from the omniscient point of view (meaning, the reader can go into the mind of any character). This is extremely rare for a chapter book. It’s hard to do, which is probably why it’s not used very much, but author Hamilton is deft in his switching from one mind to another in the story. This adds a complexity that is both unique to chapter books and is appropriate to this somewhat intricate story. I love to see chapter books treated with this kind of respect.
Second, the boy character, Cal, has a talking-dog side kick, but only Cal can understand the dog. Again, an unusual plot twist that brings comedy and depth to the story.
Also, Cal is both problem solver and problem maker. I like to see personalities created with this kind of layering. This is no simple tale, but it is a wild ride kids will enjoy following through to the end.
The format for this book includes zany line art that compliments the sometimes crazy story. The white space is not as roomy as many chapter books, with a smaller type face and perhaps a tad fewer illustrations than the norm, but this only helps to bump this book up in reading level and maturity. While still a chapter book, it will challenge reluctant readers up through fifth grade.
What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….