SNEAK PEEK PREVIEW: Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow

May 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm Leave a comment

Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow by Nathan Bransford, illustrated by C. S. Jennings; published by Dial Books for Young Readers, New York; 2011.

NOTE: This review is based on an ARC (advance reading copy) provided for free by the publisher.  The publication information is subject to change.  Expected release date: May 12, 2011.

Jacob Wonderbar seems to have one goal in life: To make life hard, very hard, for substitute teachers.  His father has moved away, his mother works long hours, and his best friends are often off doing extracurricular activities.  One warm evening, Jacob and his best friends, Dexter and Sarah, meet near the woods in their neighborhood to just hang out.  Then out of the woods walks a tall, slender, silver stranger.  In exchange for a few corn dogs, the stranger is willing to trade his space ship to the trio.  Once aboard, they find spacesuits, food and a talking computer.  Once they have taken off, they mistakenly create a cosmic space kapow which prevents Jacob and his friends from returning to earth.  So off they go on adventures to planets benign (if you can consider an atmosphere that smells like burp breath benign), challenging (a planet of serious scientists who find calculator humor extremely funny), scary (a planet full of substitute teachers!!!), and perfect (as in everyone is a perfectionist, providing only perfect treats and clothes to the trio).  They meet a boy-pirate, a space princess, and the King of Everything, among other strange human-like beings.  Will they ever return home?

Nathan Bransford’s debut is a nearly perfect book for reluctant readers in the middle grades (upper elementary primarily).  Humor and adventure combine for a rollicking read that will appeal to boys and girls alike.  The three main characters are amazingly well-developed; often characters are, well, caricatures in books for this bunch of readers, but Bransford manages to develop three of them into realistic kids.  Dexter is the good kid, always trying to please his parents and other authority figures.  Sarah is exhausted from the unrelenting extracurricular schedule her parents have created for her when she’d rather have time to do “kid” things.  And Jacob struggles with his need for attention and security after his father leaves him and his mother.

The illustrations in this ARC are black and white but definitely added to the telling of the story.  The space theme was prominent in the art on the first page of each chapter–a nice touch to tie together the book.  Often, readers at this level, particularly reluctant readers, need a mental break from the written word, so the illustrations help move the story along for them.  I’m curious to see if anything changes in the final copy of the book, since this was an advance reader copy.

The little bit of science that’s woven into the text piqued my interest enough to look some things up; hopefully librarians, parents and teachers that recommend this book will recommend some good websites to support the space theme (I’m thinking the American Museum of Natural History at http://www.amnh.org/ology/ would be a good one-stop-shop to include on a bookmark inside this book).

Of course, this book will be added to my lists of reluctant reader materials.  I would make sure to book talk it to 3rd through maybe 6th grades when doing school visits, especially with summer reading programs gearing up.

I look forward to the next installment in this new series.  Congratulations on a winning debut, Nathan Bransford!
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Entry filed under: Children's Chapter Book, for reluctant readers. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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Disclaimers: Per the FTC regulations, please note that sometimes books are received for review for free by publishers or authors. All books (ARCs, galleys, library or purchased) will be reviewed fairly; no special consideration is given to anything reviewed on this blog. In addition, I make every attempt to avoid spoilers. Sometimes they happen inadvertently or because they are important to defend a review; not all spoilers have been removed or fixed. This disclaimer is a general statement included as a warning to readers.

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