Book: Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes
Author: Peggy Gifford
Illustrator: Valorie Fisher
Age Range: 8 to 12
Background: I'm always on the lookout for high-quality, engaging reads for early elementary school kids. I think that it's important to give kids interesting books when they're first starting to read on their own. And I think that's difficult to do well - to write a great book while using a relatively limited vocabulary and set of experiences.
The Moxy Maxwell books have been on my radar for a while - several people I trusted were excited about the first book, Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little (Mary Lee and Franki had it on their best books of 2007 list, for example). Enough so that I had it on my list of books to recommend for elementary school kids even though I hadn't actually read it. I was pleased when the publisher sent me a review copy of the second book, Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes, so that I could check it out myself.
Review: Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes, written by Peggy Gifford and illustrated by Valorie Fisher, is the second book the Moxy Maxwell series. 10-year-old Moxy (a girl with considerable Moxie) and her older brother are getting ready to travel to Hollywood to spend the last week of vacation with their father, "a Big Man Behind the Scenes" out there. Before she leaves, however, Moxy has promised her mother that she'll write twelve thank you notes for her Christmas presents. Sure that the thank you notes will take "forever", Moxy expends her energy instead on finding ways to get out of writing them. The results are colossally unsuccessful.
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes offers humor for both child readers and their parents. For example:
"Number 3 on Moxy's list of 218 Possible Career Paths was to become a rich and famous movie star and adopt 17 starving children from around the world (she wasn't sure if she would have a husband) and live with them and their 17 nannies in a mansion near all the other rich and famous movie stars who were adopting starving children from around the world." (Page 8-9)
"But Mrs. Maxwell was already walking down the stairs. She was also calling Uncle Jayne on her cell phone. She was also carrying two old ice cream bowls and a plate with a fork stuck to it and Moxy's black evening gown. (Over the years Moxy had observed that a really first-rate mother can do many things at once without messing any of them up.) (Page 23)
The chapters are very short, and feature relatively long titles. Occasionally the chapter titles are longer than the chapters themselves. One chapter even consists of just a title. I suspect that this translates well to classroom read-aloud sessions, and that kids will find it appealing (though as an adult, I found it a little annoying). Valorie Fisher's illustrations consist of black and white photographs taken by Moxy's brother, Mark, often off-kilter, and sometimes blurry. The photos are like little windows into Moxy's life, and make the characters feel more real. Together, the short chapters and photo illustrations should make this book a highly accessible read for second and third graders.
Another nice thing about this book is that Moxy's family is happy, but realistically complex, with her children's book author step-father, half-sister, live-in grandmother (during the winters, at least), quirky uncle, and absent father. I also wonder if Moxy's brother is somewhere on the autism spectrum (he does things like count pieces of paper, and Moxy seems to boss him around more than one would normally see in a younger sister/older brother relationship). There's a lot going on, family-wise, in a relatively short book, though Gifford keeps the family dynamics from overwhelming the immediate story.
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes is definitely going on my shortlist of books to suggest for early elementary school readers. Although the main character is a girl, I think that she's enough of a trouble-maker, and her problems are general enough, to appeal to boys, too. Although I'm not quite in love with Moxy the way that I am with Clementine, the Moxy Maxwell series has my strong recommendation.
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade
Publication Date: August 12, 2008
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Help Readers Love Reading, Book Addiction, Abby (the) Librarian, Kids Lit, A Year of Reading, Becky's Book Reviews, Emily Reads, Best Books I Have Not Read
Author Interviews: A Year of Reading
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.