Review x 3: Muggie Maggie, Zita the Spacegirl, and "Who Could That Be at This Hour?"

Jul 7, 2017

What do all three of these books have in common? Not a thing, except that they're all books my kids were reading, and then I decided to read them too (and cross a few more books off my reading goals list in the process).

1. Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary
Bradley earned this book after completing his first twenty hours in our summer reading program. When he started to read it, I asked him if I could read it too since it was a book of Beverly Cleary's that I'd never read before.

Maggie is in third grade, which means it's time to learn that one thing she's been dreading . . . cursive. She can't see the point of it, and so she refuses to even try. But then one day, her teacher makes her the message monitor, and the messages she's carrying back and forth look so intriguing, especially when she recognizes her own name among the curves and loops of the teachers' handwriting. Unfortunately though, her cursive reading skills are lacking as much as her cursive writing skills, but suddenly she has the right motivation to learn.

When I gave Bradley this book, I hadn't taken into account all of the cursive passages, which, not even being in kindergarten yet, he couldn't read. So he needed either Aaron or I to interpret them for him. However, the fact that he couldn't read them led to the book being even more realistic because he could understand Maggie's frustration at not being able to read them either.

For my part, I was surprised by how short the book was. I hesitate to question anything Beverly Cleary does because I think she's an absolute genius, but honestly, I felt like it could have been turned into a regular length novel quite easily just by expanding what was already there just a little bit, and I would have liked that. There just wasn't enough there to make it very memorable, which is really a shame because it's a fun story.

2. Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
My kids have been on such a graphic novel kick this summer. I can't seem to keep them in books, but they don't seem to mind rereading a book three, four, or even five times before we take it back to the library. I find myself making rules like, "You have to read another book before you can read that one again." Or, "You can read that book again, but you can't count it towards your reading prize time." But I try not to do that too often because I really don't mind at all if they read graphic novels. I'm so glad I made the goal to try out a graphic novel myself several years ago because I think it gave me an appreciation for the genre that I didn't have before, and that in turn has made me more accepting with my kids' own reading. I'm actually hoping to do a post in the near future about some of their favorite graphic novel series, but I thought I should read some of them first. Hence, Zita the Spacegirl.

Zita didn't start out as a space girl. She and her friend, Joseph, are playing (on earth) when they stumble upon a crater made by a meteoroid. In the crater, they find a kind of device containing a large red button. Not heeding Joseph's advice, Zita pushes the button and watches helplessly as her friend is beamed away from earth. So she does what any good friend worth her salt would do and pushes the button again . . .

Out of all the graphic novels I've read so far, this one was not my favorite. But that has everything to do with the fact that it's science fiction (not my go-to genre) and nothing to do with the actual storytelling and characters (which are quite excellent). I would not hesitate to recommend this, and if it's any indication for how much my kids love these books, when Max saw me writing this review, he tried to steal the book away from me, saying, "I just want to read a few of my favorite parts again." And he's already read it at least four times.

Also, my kids and I loved watching this video about Ben Hatke. He seems like a really cool guy.

3. "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" by Lemony Snicket
It is with some embarrassment that I admit I wanted to read this book solely because I loved the cover and the title of the series (All the Wrong Questions). When I posted about it on Instagram, someone mentioned that it was narrated by the same character as in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Having never read that series myself, I hadn't actually realized this series was a prequel to that one. Oops.

But it must be true because the narrator of this one is indeed Lemony Snicket. In fact, he's more than the narrator; he's the main character. He is nearly thirteen and just about to embark on his first case. Only, things get a little mixed up and he winds up with the most incompetent of chaperones, S. Theodora Markson. They set off on a search for a missing statue, which was apparently stolen and meet a host of interesting characters along the way. But it turns out, Lemony really should have stayed behind and met his associate (not the same person as his chaperone) in a tunnel under the city. But he didn't do that. And now he has to wonder who is behind this complicated mystery and if things are going exactly according to that person's sinister plan?

I gave this book to Aaron for his birthday (again, because I loved the cover), and so when he started to read it, I picked it up, too. We both enjoyed it, but me probably a little more than him but a little bit less than I thought I was going to. Does that make sense? I think I would have liked it more if I'd read at least the first book in A Series of Unfortunate Events first. Even though this book technically comes before, I think there were little details that would have been more meaningful (and maybe less confusing) with that groundwork. But I don't know. Someone who has read both should let me know.

While I like a good mystery, I felt like I was floundering a little with this one and couldn't exactly grasp what was going on or even what the characters were supposed to be figuring out. But the writing itself made up for my confusion because it was just so entertaining and witty. And I think that's why Aaron didn't enjoy it as much as I did--he spent half the book feeling confused as well, but he doesn't care about the writing enough to appreciate the little inside jokes and jabs.

Something else I didn't realize when I started it is by reading the first one, you're basically committing to read all four books in the series, and I just don't know if I have it in me. Maybe. But I realize the clock is ticking, and if I don't read the second one sometime in the next three months, I'd have to reread this one first because my memory is that bad.

Anyway, I guess the takeaway from all of this is that if you've read and enjoyed A Series of Unfortunate Events, you'll probably like this one. But if you haven't read it (or didn't enjoy it), I'd probably hold off on All the Wrong Questions.

Thoughts on any of these books? Please share!

1 comment:

  1. I know as a parent it's easy to dismiss rubbish books, or rereading, or graphic novels, but the research supports the idea that if our goal is to have our kids reading fluently, those are all as valid as reading "classics" in terms of progressing. So do you know why you don't want to count rereads towards your summer goals? If it's because part of the goal is to have the kids experience different cultures or genres or something, that makes sense, but if the goal is just to have them read, then it's not really a fair limitation.

    Not that parental rules need to be fair, of course! I am the only parent I know who refused to reread picture books, because I find that boring. If Mama ain't having fun, ain't nobody having fun. But you strike me as a person who likes to know the research.

    All three Zitas were popular with my kids (I liked them). Another huge favorite was Meanwhile by Shiga.


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