Book: Weekends with Max and His Dad
Author: Linda Urban
Illustrator: Katie Kath
Age Range: 6-9
Weekends with Max and His Dad is the first of a new illustrated early chapter book series by Linda Urban. The book is divided into three multi-chapter sections. Each section recounts a weekend that third grader Max spends with his dad in his dad's new apartment (following his parents' separation). In other hands, a book for kids about adjusting to such a new family circumstance could have been didactic. In Linda Urban's hands, Weekends with Max and His Dad is flat out adorable.
In the first section, Max sees his dad's bare, white apartment for the first time. Max is in a spy phase, and he learns about the new neighborhood, and helps out a stranger, while playing spy. All I could think when I was reading this section was how much my spy-obsessed five-year-old daughter would love it. On the second weekend, Max and his dad meet a couple of neighbors, and add a couch to the apartment. On the third weekend, Max's best friend comes for a sleepover, and the boys have to go on a quest to find necessary supplies for a school project. The entire book is filled with kid-relatable issues, sprinkled with Urban's trademark slightly quirky characters.
While many of the illustrations in the advanced copy that I read were still "to come", there were enough to see a light treatment of multi-culturalism. Max and his dad are white, but their turban-wearing neighbor Mrs. Tibbet appears to be dark-skinned, as is Max's best friend, Warren. The denizens of the coffeeshop frequented by Max and dad are realistically varied. The pictures also add plenty of humor, especially in the first section, when Max and dad are wearing spy disguises. There are maps and charts, and a delightful sketch of a porcupine.
Here's a sample of the text:
"This disguise is so good even I don't know who I am," said Dad.
"That's okay." Max patted Dad's elbow. "I will remind you."
"Thanks, Pal." Dad smiled and his mustache fell off.
"You can't smile, Agent Cheese. You need to remain inconspicuous."
"Inconspicuous, eh?" Dad as careful not to smile with his mouth, but his eyes smiled anyway." (Weekend One, Chapter Two, ARC)
And here's a scene with neighbor Mrs. Tibbet, who is wonderful. Max and his dad have offered to take Mrs. Tibbet's dogs for a walk:
"A caution: These are not greyhounds. Their pace is not swift, and they like an intermission."
"Don't walk too fast and let them rest sometimes?" said Max.
"Exactly." (Weekend Two, Chapter Two, ARC)
All three sections end with scenes that are heartwarming without being cloying. As I finished the first of these I though, "Yep, my daughter is really going to love this book."And did you know that baby porcupines are called "porcupettes"? Linda Urban is the queen of kid-friendly. Max's dad is kind and thoughtful, but uncertain and prone to mistakes, too. He and Max feel real. I look forward to their further adventures. Highly recommended for schools and libraries serving elementary-age kids.
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (@HMHKids)
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
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