Monday, January 14, 2008

Hey, Rocket Man!

I've got a new little friend, and his name is Martin Bridge. This spunky protagonist is the creation of author, Jessica Scott Kerrin. He's the hero of six books, including Martin Bridge: Sound the Alarm!, Martin Bridge: Ready for Takeoff! and, the most recent, Martin Bridge: In High Gear! The series is illustrated by Joseph Kelly.

Each book contains two or three stories, which are perfect for kids ready to move up a notch in their chapter book reading. Martin is an aspiring rocket scientist and fan of his super-hero, Zip Rideout star of the cartoon, Zip Rideout: Space Cadet. Martin's stories deal with the everyday stuff of life that kids just might have to grapple with -- the grumpy school bus driver, the dead pets (that you happen to be pet sitting), jealousy (who has the fancier rocket), being lost, peer pressure, and the like. Things don't always go Martin's way and we're with him as he tries to sort out his actions and reactions to what life throws him.

Here are a smattering of reviews (SLJ and BookList and Canadian Materials) for Ready for Takeoff!, the first book in the six book series. This title was on the Fanfare List from The Horn Book and was listed as one of the best books of 2005. A few reviews bemoan that Martin is just a bit too good-to-be-true and the stories tend toward being moralistic. Yes, of course, impish children who are up to no good are fun in stories, but, you know, it's also nice to read about good-at-heart kids making their way through the dilemmas they'll find in life.

The Martin Bridge books are published by Kids Can Press.

(A bit of an aside: I think it's important for reviewers to try to imagine themselves in the shoes of the readers these books are intended for. Yes, of course, an adult reader may find books for young readers a bit simplistic at times, but, surprise, surprise, they're not meant for you! Imagine a 7-year-old trying to read these books on their own. Frustration is a sure fire way for a kid to put a book down. (Can you tell I'm writing for young kids right now?) Rant over.)

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