CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 20 . . . . May 30, 2008
Super Max Saves the World is typical Max and Ruby. Max and his friend Morris are playing superheroes while Ruby and Louise work on a school project. As various things go wrong for the two girls, Max and Morris just happen to be in the right place to save the day.
Because this is an early reader book, story flow does suffer; however, the book does do a fairly good job of capturing the personalities of Max and Ruby.
As a parent of a grade one student, I have seen my fair share of early reader books, and to my chagrin, I was ready to pass this one off as just another example, albeit a good one, of an attempt to use a child's interest in a popular television show to encourage reading.
It was in having my son read the story to me that I discovered I may have misjudged Super Max Saves the World. While there can be a question as to whether it is by mistake or design, there is an intriguing interplay between the illustrations and the text. In the process of my son’s reading the book, the illustrations elicited several questions about aspects of the illustrations from him. By my encouraging him to read on, he was able to discover the answer for himself in the text. The first example of this occurred with the illustration of Ruby and Louise working on their school project. He wanted to know what that paper was doing on their faces. By continuing to read, he was able to discover for himself that the paper was there as a result of the paper and paste they were using for their school project.
I was able to repeat this process with him on a couple of other occasions, and it hopefully introduced him to, and possibly reinforced, the idea that you can find some of the answers to your questions by reading.
As this is a book that uses a child's familiarity with a known television show, it is appropriate that the illustrations are lifted directly from the series. This approach also overcomes one of the complaints I have heard about the illustrations in the Max and Ruby books, that being that they don't look like Max and Ruby. As far as I am aware, the television show is based on a collection of children's books, and the illustrations in those books did come first; however, the reality is that, for most children, television was their first introduction to the brother and sister combination of Ruby and Max.
Having said this, I do think that it is important to note that the quality of the illustrations does suffer to some degree when they are actual "screen shots" of the television show. I do find it annoying that, while the characters are always in focus, the background, in many of the illustrations, is blurry. I found the effect very much like having me having forgotten to put on my glasses, only to realize that my glasses didn't help. A frustrating quirk, but as the main characters are the focal point of the story, this is not too big of an issue.
Super Max Saves the World comes with "picture and word match-up cards" found at the back of the book. In my opinion, these are pure marketing, and the book would suffer nothing from their removal. To me, the only two that have any educational value at all are the pictures of the balloon and the Earth. The other four are pictures of Max, Ruby, Louise, and Morris, characters easily identified by any child who has watched the television show, including my two-year-old.
Super Max Saves the World was a pleasant surprise. While it may not be the best early reader out there, it was engaging. Most importantly, for me anyway, is that it seems to have an appeal for boys which is, sadly, something that can not be said for the majority of the books available targeting the early reader audience.
Bruce Dyck is currently employed by his wife and two sons as a stay-at-home dad in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.