________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 7 . . . . November 24, 2006


Franklin’s Soapbox Derby. (Kids Can Read).

Sharon Jennings. Illustrated by Sean Jeffrey, Sasha McIntyre & Jelena Sisic.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2006.
32 pp., pbk. & cl., $5.95 (pbk.), $14.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55337-819-9 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55337-818-0 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Franklin (Fictitious character) - Juvenile fiction.
Soapbox derbies - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 5-8.

Review by Myra Junyk.

** /4


Everyone went into the store.

“What’s a soapbox derby?” asked Franklin.

“Long ago, soap came in big wooden boxes,” said Mr. Rabbit. “Kids put wheels on the boxes and raced them”

“That sounds fun!” said Franklin.

“But nowadays,  you have to build  your own soapbox,” said Mr. Rabbit.

Everyone hurried to sign up.


Franklin and his friends are off on yet another adventure! This time, they are exploring the world of soapbox derby racing. Mr. Rabbit is sponsoring a Soapbox Derby and offering prizes for the winners! Franklin and Bear sign up and begin to build their soapbox car with a pile of wood, some nails and a hammer. Eventually, they have a box, but it is higher on one side and lower on the other! They add wheels from a buggy, a bicycle and two wheels from a shopping cart. Now they have a car that leans to the left and tilts to the back. Bear adds a steering wheel from his sister’s tricycle, and now they both agree that they are ready for the race.

     On the day of the derby, the pair see that the other cars are very well made – not like their car! As the race begins, they must push their car to start it, but then it takes off without them and bumps into other cars before crossing the finish line first. Unfortunately, they cannot win the race because they were not actually in the car when it crossed  the line! Franklin says they should have won the prize for the best “BUMPer car!”

     This Level 2 “Kids Can Read” with Help Franklin book is meant for students who have some reading skills but may still need help. Although the story is thirty-two pages long with some conversation, varied sentences and increased vocabulary, it is still full of repetition and visual clues which will help beginning readers. Once students have mastered the concept of “soapbox derby,” the other vocabulary issues should not be too onerous!

     The illustrations are very well done since they are based on the television cartoon version of the Franklin series! The cartoonists are very skilled at portraying Franklin and his friends in many situations. The illustrations add not only visual appeal but also important information to the text. The text mentions a poster for the derby, and the picture illustrates what the poster says about soapbox derby teams and prizes. The pictures of Franklin and Bear’s rickety creation are amusing as well.

     All in all, this is a predictable and amusing book for young readers. Although soapbox derby racing would not be a common activity for most student readers, the book does teach students some lessons about organizing projects. The characters must do some research about their project, get the proper materials and make sure they have all the details about how to complete a project! These lessons are valuable information for all of us to learn!


Myra Junyk is the former Program Co-ordinator of Language Arts and Library Services at the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Currently, she is working as a Literacy Advocate and author.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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