This ambitious early chapter book might alternately be titled Be Careful What You Wish For. Third-grader Max has a lot on his plate since his parents have divorced and he moves to a new apartment with his mom and sister. Bullies rattle him at his new school, and occasional calls from his overbearing dad do little to reassure him. But Max has the perfect refuge: his elaborate imagination, where he spends "Adventure Time" with his trusty dreamed-up dog, King, and where he discovers a store that grants wishes ("Here by himself on his bed.... he could create whole worlds. He could go anywhere and do anything"). Things go awry when Max wishes for a "real, live dog," which shakes things up for Max's family in unexpected ways. The pacing stumbles a bit as Tolan (Surviving the Applewhites) plays out scenarios that emphasize the important role of a rich imaginary life, and the wishing device doesn't feel especially fresh. But Max is a complex yet relatable character, and Bates's gray-scale pencil-and-gouache artwork conveys plenty of emotion. Ages 7-10. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Amie Rose Rotruck
Now that Max's parents are separated, Max has a lot to deal with. Making friends at a new school is hard, especially when there is a bully like Nic Berger to deal with. Max escapes from his reality via his vivid imagination. One thing he keeps imagining and wishing for is a dog. He knows EXACTLY how he wants it to look and act. When Max imagines a store where you can buy a wish, he wishes for a dog. However, the dog he gets is completely the opposite of what he wanted. Max's mother and sister love the dog on sight and they name him Goldy, but Max is still dreaming about King, the perfect dog. Max finds himself responsible for Goldy's care and becomes resentful of both the dog and this wish gone awry. Max tries to solve his problem with more wishes, but things get complicated in a hurry. While the general story is very traditional and has a basic plot that has been done many times, it is still a touching and magical read. Reviewer: Amie Rose Rotruck
School Library Journal
Gr 2-3–Third-grader Max is adjusting to his parents’ divorce, which includes a new school and a new house without his dad (although the man has never been emotionally present). The boy relies on King, a regal and loyal, but imaginary, dog, to deal with these challenges. In fact, Max has created an entire fantasy existence for himself that he calls “Adventure Time.” In it, he performs heroic feats of daring with King by his side, thereby escaping the realities that trouble him. On one of these jaunts, the owner of a nifty little shop grants Max a wish that crosses over into the real world with consequences from which the dreamer learns and grows. Perhaps the most important change is Max’s newfound willingness to accept the unpredictability and messiness of life, a change that is presented in a thoughtful twist in the evolution of his relationship with King. The shopkeeper, too, is an interesting manifestation of the troubled youngster’s mental process of working out his conflicts. Tolan’s vivid, clean writing is deceptively uncomplicated and the many issues touched upon are handled well. This book will resonate with kids while providing parents a great jumping-off point for conversations about how to overcome some of life’s obstacles. –Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR
If wishes were horses . . . no, wait. If wishes came true for Max, he'd have King, the perfect dog. Lonely, living with his mother and sister in a new home after his parents' divorce and in a new third grade where he's repeatedly bullied, Max yearns for this trusty companion. His imagination in constant overdrive, one night Max conjures up a magical emporium called Wishworks, Inc., a place where wish fulfillment is guaranteed. Naturally, Max wishes for a "real, live dog." One hitch-King doesn't materialize, but, several days later, Max's mom takes in an ugly, misbehaving mutt. As the tale proceeds, this dog worms her way into everyone's heart, and even Max comes to realize that imaginary King was too predictable in his perfection. The novel is fairly predictable too. Still, Max is a protagonist readers will root for and whose imaginary adventures they'll enjoy. In the end, not too surprisingly, Max's other wishes also come true in sweet and satisfying ways. (Fantasy. 8-12)