Stink Moody in Master of Disaster by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Erwin Madrid, 64 pp, RL 2
It is rare that I review more than one book in a series, but sometimes I love a series so much that I want to review a book again, just in case anyone missed it the first time around. Last year I reviewed Jessica Finch in Pig Trouble, the first book in this new sibling (in more ways than one) series featuring the characters from Megan McDonald's Judy Moody series, which spawned the Stink series, featuring Judy's little brother and his hilarious comic strip at the end of each chapter. Aside from truly fantastic writing on the part of McDonald, the brilliance of her series is that each one is written at a lower reading level than the first. Judy Moody books are approximately a written at a third grade reading level, the Stink series is written at a low second grade level and Judy Moody and Friends is written at a high first grade level. From a marketing standpoint, this is genius. As a parent/librarian/teacher/gatekeeper of the books, this is a true gift. Kids love series and it is a relief to know that there is are series of books that they can read as they grow. And, as I was reminded again reading Stink Moody in Master of Disaster, the fifth book in the series, McDonald has a way with her characters and plot that is completely engaging, sneakily educational, funny and genuine. Somehow, she still thinks like a kid and it shines through. Peter H. Reynolds is the illustrator for the Judy Moody and Stink series and his expressive line drawings are perfect for these higher reading level books. Erwin Madrid illustrates the Judy Moody and Friends series an captures the quirks of the McDonald's characters as brought to life by Reynolds while adding a richly colorful pallet to the lush illustrations and making the characters relatable to a younger audience.
Stink Moody in Master of Disaster begins with the siblings camping out in the backyard, stargazing. Judy and Stink are waiting to see the P/2015 OZ4, the Sherman-Holm comet, known as the Sherlock-Holmes comet by Stink. While they don't see the comet, they do spot a shooting star and Stink makes a wish - to be doing the same thing in 100 years. The next chapter finds Stink is survival mode after learning about asteroids, specifically the meteorite that landed in Russia. Stink proceeds to build a shelter in the basement and prepare for battle. The final chapter finds Stink presented with the gift of naming his very own star.
While each book is a story with a beginning, middle and end, every chapter reads a bit like a story of its own, which I love. I also love the details McDonald adds to the story, like the Saturday Science Club that Stink attends and the Big Head Book series of encyclopedic tomes that Stink frequently refers to, whether looking for information about the galaxy or baby names. Finally, as a parent, I really love the home environment that these kids are growing up in. The Moody children are endlessly creative and a little kooky and completely supported by their parents in this. They have an ant farm and a venus fly trap and enough cardboard boxes to build an "asteroid-free zone." They support their kids's interests and they encourage curiosity, exploration and independent thinking. These are characters you want your kids to be inspired by and emulate!
The Judy Moody and Friends Series: