________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 25 . . . . March 10, 2017


Flu Shot Fidgets. (The Secret Games of Maximus Todd).

L. M. Nicodemo. Illustrated by Graham Ross.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2016.
94 pp., hardcover, $14.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4595-0434-9.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Harriet Minuk.

*** /4



He hated getting poked and prodded.


Most of all Max hated the shots. They were scary. Monster-under-the-bed terrifying. Would he be getting one today? His stomach did a nervous flip.

Max moves his feet to the office clock as he anxiously waits at school for his mother to pick him up to go to the doctor's office for a flu shot. Going to the doctor's office is like "having ten hours of homework PLUS ten hours of piano practice." Not to mention the smells in the waiting room, crying babies, and the fact that he is about to be "poked and prodded". When Max's mother comes to pick him up, she announces she had to pick up Mandy Beth from her dance class since her parents would be coming home late from work Max is less than thrilled that Mandy Beth will be tagging along as he wants to have his friend Shiv come over after the appointment. Besides, Mandy Beth is "the biggest pest in school"!

      In the back seat, Max experiences a case of the "super fidgets" thinking about Mandy Beth and the doctor. The "fidgets" continue in the waiting room only to be compounded by "butterflies in his stomach" with the arrival of Dana Daminski. Max concocts a game to help distract himself from his nervousness, making a sound every time someone mentions an animal. "Meow, woof" mutters Max after he hears a man mention it is "raining cats and dogs" outside. "Squeak, squeak" replies Max when his mother asks him to be as quiet a mouse. "Quack, quack, quack" responds Max when a mother sings "Five little ducks" to her baby. The waiting room becomes a barn as Max sings "Old Macdonald" to the baby with accompanying sound effects.

      Finally Max is called into the doctor's office where he is measured and weighed by nurse Chou. Doctor Krumper comes in and good naturedly begins Max's examination, peering into Max's throat, and checking his eyes. "Any bats in there?" asks the doctor. "Screek, screek" jokes Max. Max has his shot, and it is painless! Back in the car, Max's mother invites Mandy Beth to come over.

"…I promise I'll keep the boys in line for you." She smirked at Max. No MONKEY business!"

Mom laughed. "Wonderful. And what do you have to say to that, Max?"

…he reached over to Mandy Beth's hair and pretended to pull out a bug and eat it.

"Oooh, Oooh. Aaah. Aaah," Max answered his mother in the best chimp voice.

      Nicodemo tells the story in the third person, giving the reader a bird's-eye view of Max's thoughts and feelings as the principal character. A child wondering where their mother is when she is late, while waiting anxiously for an impending doctor's appointment for a shot, will be relatable to children who have found themselves in similar situations. Additionally, Max's interactions with Mandy Beth and Dana, as well as authority figures such as his mother, teacher and physician, are familiar to the ebb and flow of real life. Making animal sounds when an animal name is mentioned as a game is a realistic way for a child to distract her/himself while serving as an effective coping mechanism to uncertain situations. Max has also found an entertaining way to pass the time, demonstrating self-reliance and independence. Furthermore, for young readers the sounds reinforce the varying forms of communication for a particular species, all in good fun.

      The illustrations strengthen the narrative, both enforcing and supplementing the text of this story. They are a source of creativity and imagination as exemplified by a cat pulling Max's tongue to represent "cat got your tongue" or an image of butterflies fluttering in Max's stomach. Ross highlights Max's emotions through imagery as well, showing a monster under his bed to reflect fear. The varying shades of grey in the illustrations provides a subtlety, directing the reader to the story rather than being a distraction had bright colours been used.

      There is a real mix of typeface employed throughout the book. The author makes use of bolded capital letters in quotations as well as capital letters within the text to emphasize actions, sounds, and parts of the storyline. The bolded font can also increase in size in a line of text or within quotations. Different letter sizes can even occur in a single word. At different times, words can be italicized, or set at an angle in the page in order to stand out. In particular, nonsense words, such as "Kwoof, Kwoof", and plays on words, such as "hip hop Moo Sic", stand out because not only are they humorous, but they look strange!

      Max, the hero of Flu Shot Fidgets, is a likeable but imperfect character with whom children can identify. He is also relatable to adult readers or parents who have to balance the idiosyncrasies of their child within the parameters of what is acceptable behaviour at a doctor's office, school, or even in the car. The use of humour and silliness in the face of fear and uncertainty may cause an individual of any age to reflect on what coping mechanisms s/he might use to meet various challenges!


Harriet Minuk is a librarian at Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.

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

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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