Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight

Frankie Pickle is an explorer, an adventurer, on the track of missing artifacts, like....the last breakfast waffle! He's also a fourth grade kid who just doesn't want to clean up his room. Frankie thinks he's solved everything when his mom tells him "This is your space. Do with it what you want." But Frankie soon finds out there are less than pleasant consequences to a swinish life and he must face his greatest adventure ever - the Closet of Doom!

Pros: Frankie is an engaging character and will resonate with kids. One of my favorite scenes is immediately after his "deal" when he goes to make a sandwich in the kitchen; and leaves everything out. "We have an understanding" he tells his older sister. The comics are lively and kids will enjoy the juxtaposition of Frankie's black and white daydreams and his actual adventures. I appreciate that Frankie is given a choice and decides to face up to the consequences of that choice, although the story doesn't descend into didacticism.

Cons: I can see a lot of kids liking this book, but it hit several of my buttons and I just....don't like it. First, the don't clean your room up until it's so messy horrible things happen is not a new idea - it's one of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's cures. Although I have to say, having a parade go by your window and not being able to escape from your room is no more believable than waking up from a nightmare and cleaning a week's worth of mess in one night....without waking anybody up. This cure, assuming it works at all (some kids would live perfectly happily in a huge mess - and do) requires that the kid has his own bedroom and owns enough stuff to blockade himself in.

I didn't really like the slightly-changed-brand-names thing, although that may keep the book from getting outdated quite as fast. Will kids know that "Yugimon" cards are referring to Yu-Gi-Oh cards in another five years? Or that Avril the Traveler is really Dora the Explorer? It felt kind of forced to me. What really irritated me - the Dryer Sheet Fairy. Now, I'm sure Frankie knows it's really his mom mysteriously collecting, washing, drying, folding, and putting away his laundry. But he's 9. If he's old enough to fix himself a sandwich and use the vacuum cleaner, he's old enough to do his own laundry!! It's a personal peeve when parents, especially moms, clean up after their kids. Of course, these things (like the baby watching television - bad! bad!) make the story realistic. They just irritate me personally.

Verdict: Aside from my personal peeves, this is a fun story and will really grab reluctant readers.

ISBN: 978-1416964841; Published May 2009 by Simon & Schuster; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

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