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No skill is more crucial to the future of a child, or to a democratic and prosperous society, than literacy. More

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Author: Barbara Esham

Illustrator: Mike Gordon and Carl Gordon

Reserve at the Library

Publisher: Mainstream Connections Publishing, ½2008

Material: hard cover

Summary: Max Leonhard is a third grader at Perryville Elementary School. He used to love school ... but problems in math have changed his mind. Max knows the answers because he practices at home. But as soon as Mrs. Topel starts the timer, Max's brain freezes. He understands multiplication, but he can't remember the answers and he never finishes before the timer dings. When Max and his parents are called into the principal's office, Max expects the worst. But what he learns is that some people understand information but aren't good at memorizing it. This picture book offers kids some understanding - and potentially comfort - with learning frustrations.

Type of Reading: family reading, anytime reading, playtime reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 6 to 9; read yourself: 9 to 12

Interest Level: 6 to 10

Reading Level: 4.8

Age of Child: Read with a nearly 8-year-old girl.

Young Reader Reaction: My daughter has wanted to read this book ever since we read Mrs. Gorski, I Think I Have the Wiggle Fidgets. She found some of the illustrations funny (like Max's thinking cap) and could relate to his fears about being timed for tests.

Adult Reader Reaction: The entire Adventures of Everyday Geniuses series is great. These are school-based stories that kids can relate to and they can open great conversations with our kids. Max's story could be an eye-opener for parents and help them engage in smart conversations with teachers and school administrators.

Pros: Kids will see themselves in these stories about the trials and tribulations of elementary school.

Cons: There is a bully element in the story, when a classmate teases Max. Although the ending, overall, is positive, that piece is left hanging. It is not central to the story, but my daughter asked "what about David Peterson?"

Borrow or Buy: Borrow or buy. This could go either way. If you have a young child who struggles with memorization and/or testing, this could comfort him/her. The ending may not be relevant, but they will find a kindred spirit in Max.

If You Liked This Book, Try: IF YOU'RE SO SMART, HOW COME YOU CAN'T SPELL MISSISSIPPI? (The Adventures of Everyday Geniuses series)   THE MONSTER WHO DID MY MATH   BOOK (A Baby Unplugged Book)

Educational Themes: This is a great book to share one-on-one or in a small group setting. There are several layers to the book that you can explore, and role-playing would be a great way to reinforce the lessons. Ask readers what they think their talents are; ask them to think about a problem and see if they can look at it a different way (like Max and his algebra ability).

Notes: The Reading Tub½ picked up this book at Book Expo America 2009.

Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, school, learning disabilities

Date(s) Reviewed: August 2009

Other Reviews:


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