Sunday, July 10, 2011
Calvin Coconut, written by Graham Salisbury. Random House, 2011. $14.99 ages 7 and up
out. Mom and Stella cooked
up hot dogs and beans and
sliced some apples. Willy and
I took our plates out on the
covered patio and sat watching
the rain pour off the roof so hard
it dug trenches in the sandy soil
It's great to find a new series of books that will appeal to those kids who reluctantly choose reading as a pastime. There are so many other distractions for them. When I read this book last night I thought of four or five of those readers who will find that it has just enough adventure, humor, and family dynamic to hold their attention, and then have them looking for other similar tales. The kids seem real; full of energy, living near the water, and willing to follow Calvin into numerous mishaps.
Calvin's heritage is ethnically diverse, having Italian, Filipino, Hawaiian and Chinese ancestors. He lives with his mother and younger sister on Oahu where his days are filled friends, fun and a penchant for attracting trouble. His father lives in Las Vegas with a new wife; Calvin does not see him. Stella has come to live with the family, and is a pain in his neck. At 15, she is not always pleasant, likes to be the boss and acts as a helper for his mother with Calvin and Darci, while Mom is at work (Calvin actually calls her his sister in one scene to avoid the word 'babysitter').
Of his writing Graham Salisbury says:
"I have never based a character on myself, though I have shared many pieces of my life in my stories...Still, part of boring me is in every lead character I have ever written. It’s the part that believes in something, that feels something, that loves or dislikes something...Because Calvin is where it all starts, in the age of wonder. With the young. Character building can never start too soon. And this, to me, is what Calvin Coconut is all about. Choices and consequences, even in the silliest of situations. Calvin is Everyboy."
The story has humor, rich scenes of island culture and details about the people who live there. It's accessible to those wanting to read 'a first chapter book', providing action, dialogue, friendship and family drama. A map of the town and a variety of accompanying sketches will help young readers feel a part of Calvin's world.