Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom is a real find - perfect book for that emergent/reluctant boy reader (which is pretty much what Natasha Maw said just yesterday). It's a graphic novel / chapter book hybrid aimed at early readers - I'd recommend it for a slightly younger crowd than the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books or the Dodger and Me series. The book, written by a comic book artist, moves seamlessly between narrative text about Frankie and his family and comic book panels depicting Frankie's Indiana Jones-like imaginary adventures. Both text and illustrations are giggle-inducing and kid-friendly.
In this first book of a planned series, Frankie resists cleaning his room. His mother finally tells him that he doesn't have to clean his room anymore. But she warns him that whatever happens, he'll have to deal with the consequences. And, as you might imagine, there are consequences, from towering piles of laundry to purple and green furred food to a truly scary "closet of doom". The message is fairly straightforward (and in fact, parallels a plot line from the most recent Wimpy Kid book), but Wight delivers with humor and imagination. It helps, of course, that resisting cleaning one's room is an experience to which most kids can relate.
There are lots of nice touches, too. Frankie's best friend doesn't talk - he says everything that he has to say through music (e.g. Wah-wah wah-waaaaaah" in response to bad news). Frankie's older sister is the family athlete, and his dad is the one who cooks for the family (though mom is still the one doing laundry). As for Frankie, he's priceless. Just look at that picture on the cover, and tell me if that doesn't make you want to know him better. A pint-sized Indiana Jones, with comically prominent eyebrows, and a slick hat. His expressions range from cynical to confident to fearful, all convincing. My favorite sketch from inside the book is one of Frankie dressed in the dregs of his clean clothing, complete with sombrero and cowboy boots, looking a bit sheepish. And, for kids who like to draw, Wight has included a quick tutorial on how to draw Frankie and his dog, Argyle, at the end of the book.
Here are a couple of quotes from the text, to give you a feel for the book:
"Blocking his path to the front door was a laundry basket with legs.
"Not so fast, Franklin Lorenzo Piccolini," said the basket.
Not the Middle Name! Frankie froze in his tracks.
Mom set down the basket. "You're not going anywhere until you CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM," she said.
Frankie gulped. Lava monsters didn't seem so scary compared to Mom." (Chapter 2)
"In a shoebox Frankie collected garbage bags, cleaning supplies, and a chisel. He also grabbed cookies and juice box for nourishment. (Chapter 13) [For some reason, I found the chisel hilarious]
"Now that the mold monster had been defeated, there was only one challenge left to tackle: the Closet. He turned the knob every so slowly, trying not to think about the danger that awaited them on the other side.
The closet burst open, erupting like a volcano. Comics, toys, games, and more spilled out all over the floor. Argyle yelped as he jumped out of the way." (Chapter 14)
As you can see, Wight uses short sentences and plenty of dialog, taking a comic book feel right into the text portions of the book. I would expect this approach to work especially well for newer readers. The comics will pull them right in to the text, and then the text will send them right back to the comics. Perfect! Librarians, this one is a must-get for the early elementary school set. And so cute. Highly recommended!
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
Source of Book: Review copy
Other Blog Reviews: Maw Books, MotherReader, Critique de Mr. Chompchomp, A Year of Reading (I believe that this was the review that made me want the book)
Author Interviews: Newsarama
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.