Children's Lit Book Reviews

Thursday, February 11, 2010

By: Chris Van Allsburg
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 32
Reading Level: 4-8
Genre: Picture Book/Fantasy
Award: N/A

"Chris Van Allsburg, a master of surprise endings, wraps a captivating story in lush, warm full-page illustrations in pencil over pastels in burnt sienna that ooze the heat of a summer day in the early 1940s."
-Chicago Sun-Times

Summary: Calvin, a young boy who loves to terrorize his younger sister is threatened by his mother that he will not receive his birthday present unless he immediately apologizes for placing a spider in her bed. After he apologizes, while eating at the breakfast table, Calvin's mother then gives him his present which is two tickets to see Lomax the Magnificent, who is a magician and hypnotist. Even though Calvin's mom hints that his little sister, Trudy, would love to go, Calvin doesn't invite her. Instead, and without hesitation, Calvin runs outside to invite his good friend Rodney. While at the magic show, the two boys are amazed at Lomax and his ability to hypnotize a woman into thinking she is a chicken. They wonder how this works, and then, with a snap of the fingers, Lomax says the magic word "PROBUDITI," and the lady returns to her senses. Rodney and Calvin think it was one of the funniest things they have ever seen.
The boys return home, greatly impressed by the magician's performance, and Calvin then finds himself having to watch over Trudy while his mother goes to the beauty parlor. The boys run upstairs and create a contraption made out of Erector parts and somehow talk Trudy into being a part of there experiment. She agrees and they sit her down in front of homemade machine. Within seconds she becomes glassy-eyed and completely unaware of her surroundings. Calvin then leans over and tells Trudy to begin acting like a dog. Trudy jumps off the chair and then begins panting and rolling around like a dog. The rest of the afternoon they play around with Trudy in her hypnotized state of mind. They finally decide to turn her back but come to the realization that all of their tactics are not working. In a last minute effort, they load Trudy up in a wagon and trek across town to visit Mr. Lomax. After attempting to visit Mr. Lomax, the boys return home only to see Calvin's mom pulling up the driveway. Rodney runs away and Calvin is left standing there with his sister, Trudy, crying her eyes out. Calvin is then sent to his room and his sister brings him a peanut butter sandwich, a pickle, and a glass of milk. Calvin makes fun of Trudy for acting like a dog in her hypnotized state. Trudy then tells Calvin she didn't remember anything about the afternoon but did enjoy the ice cream that was given to her earlier in their trek to see Mr. Lomax.
Who would benefit from reading this book?: Anyone who reads this book will walk away happy and gratified. The readability of the book is easy. It would make a great book to be read to children of all ages. Intermediate readers might find it enjoyable to read by themselves, but it is just an all around great book to read aloud in classrooms and in bedtime story situations.
What problems/concerns could this book potentially cause?: In my opinion I don't think that there is any problems or concerns with this book. However, some might disagree, because of two different scenarios in the book. The first might be that the mother allowed the children to go to a magic show by themselves without any adult supervision. The second might be related to some sort of racial connotation because of their African American ethnicity. There is an instance within the book where Allsburg has the little African American girl on all fours, drinking water out of a bowl like an animal.
My reaction: I was reading this book in the library, and there were certain parts where I found myself laughing out loud with people giving me funny looks. This is a great book, and I personally find it very funny and enjoyable. I think that Allsburg did a great job with this book. His illustrations, as always, are absolutely stunning. I would recommend this to all who are looking for a funny and entertaining book to read aloud to children of all ages.
posted by Jon Dale at 1:15 PM


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