Thursday, October 6, 2016

Weekends with Max and his Dad by Linda Urban, illustrated by Katie Kath

Max is nervous about spending his weekends with Dad, now that his parents are divorced. It seems like his dad doesn't know him well at all - he's not into football anymore! The apartment is bare and lonely too. Fortunately, both Dad and Max are willing to compromise and talk things out. Each weekend they have a new adventure, from being spies to taking out a neighbor's dog, to a school emergency. Finally, Max feels at home in both his homes - his house and his apartment.

Black and white illustrations dot the story, showing quirky Max, his nerdy Dad, and their gentle adventures.

I am very much torn about this book. On the one hand, there are very few titles for younger readers that portray divorce. This is matter-of-fact, without angst, and shows Max dealing with changes in his family in a gentle, friendly way. It also portrays a fun sense of imagination and exploring the city. On the other hand, Max feels very young for a third grader. I have a hard time seeing any third graders I know wanting to go out and play through a complicated spy scenario to the extent of dressing up. There's also little to no mention of electronics, a big part of life for most kids this age. At 150 pages, it's too long for the younger audience and the general tone of the characters and "adventures" is too young for kids who could handle that length.

Finally, the whole divorce scenario just didn't match with the real-life experience of most kids in my community. I generally see parents racing around to get kids to all their scheduled activities, handle a complicated schedule of handing the kids back and forth, and basically just getting on with life. The slow, relaxed pace of the story just dragged after a while. Max's dad's ignorance about his changing tastes was odd - was he absent from Max's life for a long time? Why is he such a stranger to Max? For a dad who is planning to be this involved in his child's life, his uncertainty doesn't ring true.

Verdict: While this will be perfect for some communities - I'm thinking higher income, urban scenarios - it doesn't fit my community. The childishness of the characters and length of the book make it difficult to find an audience as well.

ISBN: 9780544598171; Published 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

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