Friday, June 16, 2017

The Escapades of Clint McCool: Octo-Man and the Headless Monster by Jane Kelley, illustrated by Jessika von Innerebner

I can't quite decide how I feel about this book, but I'm leaning towards no. Clint McCool (his real name is Walter, but only his mom and teacher call him that) has a lot of good ideas. Often they get him into escapades, which are even better! But not everyone agrees. In the space of one afternoon, Clint gets in trouble at school for not focusing and distracting other kids, his two friends, Marco and M. L., are angry that he's gotten them into trouble and ripped Marco's favorite shirt, and the director at the cool movie site is really mad at him. Not to mention his teacher, mom, and pretty much everyone else.

Luckily, Clint has his special hat with buttons on it, including a good idea button, and it helps him save the day. He apologizes to the movie guy, manages to keep his focus long enough to save the movie, and apologizes to his friends as well, who generously forgive him.

Clint has a vivid, active imagination and a million great ideas. Unfortunately, none of those ideas include empathy or listening to adults or his friends until the very end of the story. It's hard to understand why Marco and M. L. are still friends with someone who appears so oblivious and selfish. However, he does apologize at the end and apparently his friends enjoy some of the wild escapades they get into. In some ways, Clint appears to be a classic ADHD kid, with his unlimited energy and inability to focus or listen. However, if that's the case, it doesn't sound like any accommodations or help is being given to him in school or at home. Early in the book the teacher hints at something that will happen to Walter if he doesn't behave and his mom threatens "If Walter can't behave, they'll find ways to make him" which is...not very helpful, to put it mildly.

All the interior illustrations are drawn in pen on a white background. On the cover, Clint has tanned skin and dark brown hair. His friends, Marco and M. L., have a dark buzzcut and curly hair that seems to indicate some racial diversity, but the art style makes all the characters paper-white. The story is written in a choppy, breathless style that is not bad for a beginning chapter book or the personality of the main character, but gets very tiring to read. "Go home? We can't go home! There aren't any monsters in our apartment. Mom takes my hand like I'm a two-year-old. Is this the end? Has Clint McCool been defeated? No, wait. I can still save the day. I'm wearing my cap!"

Verdict: Ultimately, I'd say this was well-intentioned but fell short of achieving a strong beginning chapter book with diverse characters. Not recommended.

ISBN: 9780448487540; Published 2017 by Grosset & Dunlap; Review copy provided by publisher

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