Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Max Disaster #1 Alien Eraser to the Rescue by Marissa Moss

Meet Max. He's a disaster who likes scientific experiments. When his marshmallow experiment in the microwave explodes into "Godzilla Puffs," mom is not pleased with the gooey mess. (The godzilla puffs illustrations are pretty funny.) As Max moves on to other experiments such as a mud volcano, getting into his brother's room by serving irresistible treats, and mixing water with food coloring, we discover that family life is not so hunky-dory. Mom and dad are fighting. Lots. Max deals with it by experimenting, drawing alien eraser comics (DUN, DUN, dun), and talking to his brother. The result is an explosion of fun with an emotional pull that leaves the reader satisfied - if not a little hungry.

Max is a boy's version of the Amelia's Notebook series. Take note you Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans - before Jeff Kinney there was Marissa Moss blurring the lines between images and text. The reading flips from text to pictures to speech bubbles and you need to pay attention to all to follow the storyline. On one page I missed the picture of Mr. Cabrillo and the speech bubble and the following text didn't make sense because Ms. Blodge was speaking in the text before. While it sounds confusing, it isn't. Just take your time and look at the details. Maybe I'm showing my age by not having grown up with graphic novels. What I love about this visual-text style novel is that I have a story I wrote when I was 10 with text, speech bubbles, and pictures.

Max goes to school and has a best friend, Omar, that he writes a comic strip with about alien erasers. The alien eraser idea overflowed during a lava experiment in Ms. Blodge's class where the two decided the alien erasers had to flee or be burned. Ms. Blodge confiscated the erasers and an ongoing joke continues throughout the book as well as the story-within-a-story comic strip of the alien erasers. The cyclops eraser named "Lublip Fooza" was my personal favorite.

There is plenty of kid humor with nose-picking and farting to name a few. This is not a thick book and is good for the grade 5 student. It has themes such as parents separating as the family adjusts to painful circumstances. While Moss shows the uncertainty and fear of divorce from a child's point of view, it is balanced with more humor and hope than sadness. This is one of those books that isn't heavy on text and is not going to overwhelm the reader who doesn't like thick chapter books. I have parents ask how to get their child from reading only graphic novels to text and this is one I'll definitely recommend.

Reading Level 4.5

4 out of 5 Smileys

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