Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Small Readers: The Super Secret Adventure Club by George McClements

I like some of McClements' picture books, Baron von Baddie and the Ice Ray Incident particularly, but I really could not get behind this easy reader.

The story is told completely through dialogue and the pictures. Older brother Sam is annoyed by pesky younger sister Bea as he tries to choose a name for his clubhouse with his friends, Matt and Luke. As each one imagines a different use for their stack of cardboard boxes, it morphs into the thing with annoyed sister Bea along for the ride. For example, when one of the boys declares it a Rocket, named Space Place, it shows the boys shooting across space in their rocket with Bea as a pink alien glaring from her saucer. Finally, Bea yells that they should stop talking about their "Super Secret Adventure Club" and the boys happily take the name and settle down in their club.

The collage-style art is not unattractive and one of the boys is dark-skinned with curly hair (although I'm personally reluctant to count friends towards diversity - why not the main character?). However, I found the art to feel very stiff and posed; there was no life or movement in it. The text was scattered in different places throughout the artwork, in widely varying fonts, colors and shapes. This isn't helpful for a beginning reader. It's not like Toon books where they carefully place the text in an orderly way within the comic panels; here the kids not only have to deal with the the struggles of a beginning reader, they've got to hunt for the text they're supposed to read.

The two things that really annoyed me, and which put this in a do not purchase pile for me, was first the old, tired stereotype of a boys-only clubhouse. Yes, I do realize that it could easily fall into the "annoying younger sibling" however, there's no resolution of this part of the plot. At the beginning there's a squabble over the flag, which Bea claims is hers. She doesn't get thanked for naming the clubhouse, apologized to for the boys' noisy play disrupting her tea party, or really recognized at all. Not to mention - boys playing with an imaginary rocket, T-Rex and pirate ship vs. girl in pink having a tea party - stereotypical much?

The other thing that annoyed me, but which isn't particularly germane to the book, is that this is yet another paperback from Scholastic rebound by one of those ubiquitous prebound companies. A significant chunk of the artwork disappears down the gutter and it makes the pictures really confusing - one of them nearly wipes out Bea-as-pterodactyl, and other take an inch or so out of the middle of pictures making them look like a jumble of shapes and colors. Baker and Taylor's prebinds are so much nicer, without the binding companies logo splashed all over the book, and usually without the issues of the gutter and they're not more expensive, often significantly less. I'm not in favor of libraries using these companies to populate their easy reader and picture book sections with substandard bindings.

Verdict: Not recommended, either the book itself or the binding. I will wait for McClements to come up with something a little more unique - I know he has it in him.

ISBN: 9780545436854; Published 2012 by Scholastic/prebound by Book Farm; Borrowed from another library in my consortium


Elisa Bergslien said...

Ugh - and the title sounded so promising. I certainly don't need another book like that. My daughter would love a book were she could pretend she was the pink alien buzzing her brother's spaceship. Sounds like this book would simply hurt her feelings.

And I agree about the binding issue too. I hate it when the binding acts like the Grand Canyon and swallows art and even text sometimes. Why do they do that ?!?

Jennifer said...

Cheap prebind/preview companies. I am not a fan.