Friday, June 26, 2015

Maybelle goes to school by Katie Speck, illustrated by Paul Ratz de Tagyos

It's been a long, long time since the first Maybelle book, Maybelle in the Soup, came out and was a surprise hit with my patrons. The last Maybelle book came out in 2012 and I'd given up seeing any more until I saw this at ALA and was assured by the publicist that it really was coming out.

In this, the fourth book of Maybelle's adventures, Maybelle the cockroach and her friend Henry the flea inadvertently go along for the ride to the first day of school when they sample Mrs. Peabody's massive ten layer cake and end up visiting the school bake sale. Hijinks ensue, from frantic bug-chasing by the humans to Maybelle's efforts to keep track of Henry (and his pants). Finally, everyone makes it home and safe and sound and Maybelle vows to never fall asleep in a cake again...until next time.

The art in this galley was incomplete, but there are enough black and white drawings to get a sense of Tagyos' humorous line art and how it fits into Maybelle's wacky adventures. The larger-than-life characters have exaggerated facial expressions and lumpy Henry and sylph-like Maybelle are cute and bug-like without being too insectish.

My main concern with this is that it's been so long since a Maybelle book came out. For a beginning chapter book series, three years is, literally, a lifetime. The original Maybelle fans moved on within a year or two at most and purchasing the newest book in the series means having to start all over with building a fan base. While this book can be read on its own, it will make more sense if you've read the prior books and know who Maybelle and Henry are, their previous adventures, and the general tenor of the series. However, it looks like the three previous books are being released with updated covers to match the latest book so now could be a good time to start with the whole series if you missed it the first time around.

Verdict: This wouldn't necessarily be my first choice if I had a very limited budget for beginning chapter books, but it's definitely a recommended series, being funny, easy to booktalk, and I know it was an easy sell for kids before so probably will be again.

ISBN: 9780805091588; Published June 2015 by Henry Holt/Macmillan; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2015

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