CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 15 . . . . March 20, 2009
Martin Bridge loves Zip Rideout, summer holidays, his friends Alex and Stuart, and being a Junior Badger. He doesn't like girls, his mother's attempts at music and loud noises. In short, he is a typical kid who is going to make mistakes, learn some lessons, and have fun. He is also the main character in Jessica Scott Kerrin's latest instalment of Martin Bridge adventures entitled Martin Bridge Onwards and Upwards!
Jessica Scott Kerrin's writing remains consistently strong in this newest adventure. Her ability to tell a simple story without getting sidetracked with extraneous detail aids in her success with writing for an emerging reader. Unlike the situation in some series, she also does not rely on the reader knowing her characters or reverting to summarizing previous stories for clarity, though other books in the series are referred to. Onwards and Upwards! can stand on its own or be enjoyed as part of a set.
The newest installment includes two episodes from Martin's life and an activity the reader can complete that is related to the story. In this book, the reader learns how to make a marshmallow catapult — a real hit with my guest reader.
"Keyboard," the first episode, finds Martin stuck in the house with his mother who is torturing him by her learning to play the keyboard. Martin knows she will never have any talent in this area and quickly becomes tired of listening to her practice. Concurrently, Martin's friends, Alex and Stuart, decide to start a sprinkler party business. Again, Martin cannot support this plan because he knows it is doomed for failure. However, by the end of the story, Martin realizes that it might be more important, and much more interesting, to support people in the pursuit of their dreams than the dreams actually being successful.
The courage to keep trying regardless of other's opinions is explored again in Kerrin's next story, "Rope." Laila Moffatt, a persistent and somewhat annoying girl, has decided to join the Junior Badgers. Even though the troop doesn't make her feel welcome, Laila continues to persevere and succeeds in earning badges — even the hard ones. When Martin is teased during one of their activities, he begins to appreciate Laila's won't quit attitude. He realizes that courage isn't always about performing feats of strength or daring, but about continuing to try no matter what.
Joseph Kelly's illustrations complement Kerrin's text impeccably. Like Kerrin's text, Kelly keeps his sketches simple; there is no irrelevant material to confuse the reader. Clean black and white drawings depict the emotions and actions of the main characters and are used to effectively support the plot. Indeed, an emerging reader can tell a close approximation of Kerrin's plots using only the pictures. A further aid is the visual character map found at the beginning of the book that depicts all the characters found in the stories.
My guest reader, a nine year-old Wolf Cub, really related to Martin. He was particularly sympathetic to Martin's wish for his mother to give up the keyboard. He also discussed, in depth, how to build the marshmallow catapult. He said he would like to read other books in the series — high praise indeed.
Martin Bridge is a likeable boy who, hopefully, has a few more stories to tell. Two small words of warning: when reading this book, watch out for flying morals and a marshmallow or two. Kerrin and Kelly have a well formed partnership that will only go Onwards and Upwards.
Kerrin and Kelly have a well formed partnership that will only go Onwards and Upwards.
Jonine Bergen is a Winnipeg, MB, teacher and library technician who likes her marshmallows in hot chocolate.
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