Launching the Max Disaster series, Moss (the Amelia's Notebook series) again narrates through a journal, but this time with a decidedly male POV. Max, who plans to be a scientist like his parents, starts a notebook to record his inventions and sketch cartoons, including the exploits of an alien pencil-top eraser. Max's mishmash includes stories about his schooldays, cartoons, minicomics, asides and experiments (readers will learn how to make "Godzilla puffs" by microwaving marshmallows). But weaving together this funny, kid-savvy montage is the story of Max's parents' separation. Raw emotion is leavened by humor: Max worries, "If you take apart a family, can you put it back together in a way that makes sense?" and at one point he sketches a trio of "Happy-Marriages-R-Us Robots," one of which features a "last-resort tranquilizer dart, strong enough to put ten elephants to sleep (or one raging parent)." Moss is a master at verbalizing kids' anxieties and channeling their astute observations of family life-both as it breaks apart and begins to mend. Also out: Max Disaster #2: Alien Eraser Unravels the Mystery of the Pyramids. Ages 8-12. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Melyssa Malinowski
Max wants to be a scientist when he grows up. His parent are both scientists and he loves to do experiments and invent things. If he could, he would invent the perfect family, with parents that do not fight and a friendlier older brother. He would also like a perfect teacher who would not confiscate his brilliant stuff. Instead he has to settle for eraser people. His best friend is named Omar and they always try to pair up for assignments at school and to sit together. Omar likes to draw on erasers, too. There are some difficult things going on in Max's life right now. His parents have decided to separate and Max has a lot of questions about how it will affect his life. This book is a lot of fun to read. It is part log book, part experiment record, part journal, and part comic book. The format and design is wonderful, full of color, pictures, and the vast imagination of an elementary school boy that is excited about life in general and science in particular. It deals with a lot of topics in a sensitive and realistic manner. This would be a book to have in an elementary school library or a public library. Boys especially would be drawn to the seemingly organized chaos of Max Disaster. Reviewer: Melyssa Malinowski
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—These eye-catching transitional readers pack a lot into each slim volume: comics, humor, common childhood problems, science experiments, history, science fiction, and more. Flip-flopping between a comic and notebook format, the narratives follow the everyday life of an elementary school student and the supposedly real comic adventures of an alien eraser that claims to have taken over his brain. The alien's plan is to inspire Max to draw comics about his "glorious deeds," which include such feats as building the ancient Egyptian pyramids. Besides having his brain controlled by an alien, Max has an assortment of other things to deal with: a moody teenage brother, a boring teacher who confiscates his favorite belongings, and parents who have recently separated. He expresses and illustrates these everyday troubles with humorous, colorful drawings and diagrams of imaginative inventions, such as the "referee robot," designed to control fighting parents; and the "Book-to-Brain Zapper," which translates books into one's own words, creating a "report [that] miraculously writes itself with NO spelling mistakes." These books are full of fun, facts, and adventures that are sure to capture the interest of both reluctant and avid readers.—Melinda Piehler, Sawgrass Elementary School, Sunrise, FL
In these retooled versions of Max's Logbook (2003) and Max's Mystical Logbook (2004), Moss discards the graphpaper backgrounds, expands the role of a small green penciltopper that is (at least in the young narrator's mind) a visitor from space with telepathic powers and remixes lightly revised text and art. In the setup episode Max draws comics, lays out simple science demonstrations ("Experiment #1: What happens when you microwave a marshmallow?") and turns a bucket full of pencil erasers into action figures by drawing faces on them-all while watching and fretting about his parents' separation. Max Disaster #2: Alien Eraser Unravels the Mystery of the Pyramids (9780765633855; paper: 9780763644086) features more of the same as he and his best buddy Omar work on a school project offering "proof" that aliens built the Egyptian pyramids. Max's narrative being thickly interspersed with small color illustrations and neatly lettered captions, comments and dialogue balloons, even novice chapterbook readers will have no trouble following along-and could well catch Max's interests in science, or at least eraser decoration to boot. (Fiction. 810)