Calvin loves words. Really loves words. So much so, that Calvin, a young elementary school student, carries an encyclopedia around with him wherever he goes. Calvin wants the right word for things. He can find that right word in his dictionary … for most things. But he can’t quite figure out the right word for his rascally brother who makes him snort milk out his nose and maybe picks on him at times. But at home at night. with the two of them laughing over a prank Calvin manages to pull on his brother, the right word comes to him.
The book definitely has a cute theme and ends on the appropriately touching note, but for the most part, I really didn’t find this very enjoyable.
The familial relationship between the brothers is definitely honest and true. I really like how this captures a child’s life with siblings.
But the book is also teaching the reader/listener new words. These words are bold and in color, so we know these are the words to learn with the book. And these words are: Revenge, Mayhem, Bewilderment, Subterfuge, Courageous, Pulverize, Retaliation, Slumber, Prank, and Hilarity. Really? Six of the ten words are aggressive – typically toward another person. Are these really the words to be teaching young readers? They’ll grow to know them, but I don’t think I agree that these are the lessons to teach in a picture book.
And honestly, I was a little disheartened at the two-page spread (this is only a 30 page book) of the school bus. Using the chaos on the bus (“everyone is pushing and hollering and shouting, running up and down the aisle, throwing backpacks”) for the word “mayhem” might be appropriate for the word, and while it’s been a few years since my kids were school bus age, I know that in our area at least there has been a concentrated effort to not have mayhem on a bus for safety reasons. Running up and down the aisles on a moving bus? Is that still allowed? Could we not have had mayhem on a playground?
What rescues this book, somewhat, for me are the pictures. Mike Deas’ art is perfect for this type of picture book. It is realistic but whimsical and actually manages to tone down the aggressiveness of the story. I love the cutaway view of the house at night. I could easily see my kids – pre-reading age – thumbing through this just for the art.
But if I was in a bookstore, looking for a new picture book to buy for my family, or for friends with children, being a lover of words, I would probably pick this up, give it a read, then put it back on the shelf and look for something else.
Looking for a good book? Calvin Gets the Last Word by Margo Sorenson, with art by Mike Deas, is a picture book that maybe unintentionally gives some inappropriate consideration to aggressive behaviors.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Calvin Gets the Last Word
author: Margo Sorenson
artist: Mike Deas
publisher: Tilbury House Publishers
hardcover, 32 pages