Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review (Kids): A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever

Award-winning children's author Marla Frazee has written a delightfully fun book for this time of year. James is visiting his grandparents, Bill and Pam, who live at the beach, for a week's vacation. His best friend Eamon ("pronounced "ay-mon"") comes along.

(Bill and Pam must be saints (or sedated) to agree to babysit two high-energy boys - who appear to be elementary school aged - for an entire week. I'm just sayin'.)

Nonetheless, you know you're in for a fun time just by the cover illustration, which has James (on the left) saying, "How long do we have to stand here and smile?" and Eamon replying, "Only for this picture and then we can go back to being normal."

With that, the reader is off with James and Eamon for a rollicking seaside adventure, but soon learn that Grandpop Bill (who strongly resembles Quaker Oats and Liberty Medical pitchman - and accomplished actor - Wilfred Brimley) has planned a week of Nature Camp for all to enjoy. He has a fascination with Antartica, suggesting that they all visit the Penguin Exhibit at the Natural History Museum, and brings globes and maps to the breakfast table (laden with Pam's specialty, banana waffles).

James and Eamon are less than interested, to put it mildly - until their last evening at the beach, when they wander outside, and discover the many joys that nature can provide when you're not really looking. The ending is a special gift for Bill and Pam that makes Bill realize that perhaps his tutorials on Antartica and penguins have been absorbed more than previously thought.

Marla Frazee has written an incredibly entertaining book, one that my kids loved. For the purpose of this review, I asked Boo what he liked most about it and he replied, "The characters."

There is one page that several bloggers (I've listed some other reviews below) have commented on that bears mention. Grandpop Bill is driving the boys to Nature Camp, and en route, "James and Eamon learned a lot of new vocabulary words while Bill drove." The illustration is of Bill driving the car, with a "speech bubble" over his head, with simply: "@#%&!

This didn't cause that much of a to-do in our house ... in fact, my kids thought it was funny, perhaps relating to other youngsters who have, ahem, learned a few choice words while driving with a grown-up. I didn't find it too inappropriate (although I respect the opinion of others who see it differently and felt it shouldn't have been included). I just explained the @#%&! to my kids as how one would write the sound "Argh!" (if that makes sense). And they bought it.

A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever has been named as a 2009 Caldecott Honor Book (among many other awards)and, on a more local level, as a Blue Hen Award Nominee for Children's Choice. I've seen the Blue Hen books at our library on occasion and have been curious about what these are all about. Seems that each year, our state's library association selects a handful of picture, chapter, and teen books as nominees; kids get a chance to vote for their favorites. A Couple of Books Have the Best Week Ever is up against one of Betty's favorites, Fancy Nancy's Favorite Fancy Words by Jane O'Connor, and three others.

This one will be getting Boo's vote - as well as mine. Marla Frazee has written (and illustrated) a lighthearted, fun summer read that, just like the subtle lessons imparted by the story's Grandpop Bill, emphasizes the bonds of friendship and family, respect for elders, and an appreciation of natural resources and the environment.

I hope you enjoy this one during one of your best weeks ever.

Here's what a few other bloggers are saying (if I missed your review, please let me know!)


Anonymous said...

We love Marla's books!! We bought this one (A Couple of Boys...) in LA last summer, but our absolute favorite is Mrs. Biddlebox. Also, check out Santa Claus, the World's Number One Toy Expert.

Betty and Boo's Mommy said...

Kristen, I will definitely check out those two. Thanks!