CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 20. . . .February 3, 2017
Frantic Friend Countdown. (The Secret Games of Maximus Todd).
L. M. Nicodemo. Illustrated by Graham Ross.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2016.
95 pp., hardcover, $14.95.
Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.
Review by Sae Yong Kim.
He wondered how pesky Mandy Beth always seemed to figure him out. Maybe she's part witch. He hoped she'd get a wart on her nose. By lunchtime. (p.16)
“Weirdo, Mangy Breath?” he said.
“YOU GiVe me BaCK mY SCHOOLBaG, MaXimUS TODD!” Mandy Beth ordered. “And you ARE weird!”
“You're just mad cuz Shiv did the science experiment with me,” Max said. He started running. (pp. 94-95)
Maximus Todd wants to have a best friend and hopes the new kid at school will fulfil this role. He tries his best to be friendly, but his awkward efforts look a lot more like being malicious and not very much like being nice. His Super Fidgets complicate things a bit as Max decides Shiv must call his name five times before the day ends. The arrival of a real bully and Max's help getting rid of him finally bring the two together… but with the addition of Mandy Beth, Max's “pest with a capital P.”
Frantic Friend Countdown puts simple, comic-style illustrations together with a bold, blocky typeface and a day-in-the-life narrative to stir the interest of young readers, most especially those who find other early chapter books a little too difficult to read. The overall look is similar to the “Dork Diaries”, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, or “Alvin Ho” series titles but contains much fewer words than any of them and has very simple writing. The contents page shows 11 chapters, however, and each chapter is announced with a page break and special header, modeling the structure of most grownup novels. The page-by-page design is more open and clean than, say, “Geronimo Stilton” titles, with the illustrations showcasing the object or person of interest without being distractingly detailed. Max is a cheerful, good-natured boy who tries to enjoy his daily school life while being archenemies with his neighbor Mandy Beth – a dependable formula for school stories.
The bolded sentence within my excerpt demonstrates the oddity of the chosen typeface of the book, which is my only quibble. Varied font sizes and use of spacing emphasize important words or strong feelings within the text, an approach which may be useful for beginning readers. However, when the typeface, itself, mixes up lowercase and uppercase letters, sometimes using both within a single word, I believe it may be disconcerting for the target audience at a time when they are learning such conventions as capitalization.
Sae Yong Kim is a casual Youth Librarian working in British Columbia.
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