Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Monday, November 2, 2009

Calvin Coconut

Calvin Coconut: The Zippy Fix by Graham Salisbury

Calvin is in the fourth grade and lives in Hawaii with his mother, little sister, and fifteen year old babysitter Stella. The Zippy Fix follows Calvin and his friends as he tries to get even with Stella for teasing him about his height. Calvin learns that Stella is allergic to cats and so decides to put his friend's Maya's cat on Stella's pillow. He thinks she will just sneeze a bit. After taking a nap on that pillow Stella's face is swollen and her voice raspy, she then has to cancel her first date which was supposed to be happening that night. Calvin feels justified in his actions but also a bit guilty. Calvin's mom asks him the next day to try to get a present for Stella for her sixteenth birthday on Monday. Calvin has three days to try and put something together. Eventually after working a couple jobs, and with the help of his friends, he raises $18 to buy Stella the new CD from her favorite artist.

Although there are some good lessons to be learned from this story about working hard and asking for help, Calvin never admits to putting the cat on Stella's pillow that causes her allergic reaction. I have a problem with this. His mother asks him repeatedly if he knows what might have happened and he lies every time. By the end of the book he no longer feels guilty about what he did because Stella was so happy about her new CD. I think this is a terrible ending. I realize that children lie everyday and are not caught but I do not think promoting it in their books is appropriate. I also disapprove of the underlying message that if you do something wrong, then buy someone a present, it is all ok. It is not ok, and I don't think lessons like this teach children anything positive. I hate to stand on a soap box here but it is another one of my pet peeves, when people do not apologize. (On a side note I have noticed this in movies too, characters rarely if ever apologize, they may admit they were wrong but do not ask for forgiveness). Why is forgiveness such a bad thing?

Overall though, this is a fun read for boys ages 8-11. It is also the second book in a series, so if you like Calvin and the little adventures he has, there are more books to come.

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