Frankie Pickle, star of previous graphic-hybrid novels, is once again in, well, a pickle.
This time, it’s math that’s giving Frankie fits. His teacher gives him a second chance after he spends the period doodling on an important math test instead of actually taking it. His parents employ a real-world approach to help their son master fractions, multiplication and word problems. Though Frankie eventually aces his test, readers are not treated to the same level of fun found in previous episodes (Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000, 2000, etc.). His forays into the imaginary land of Arithmecca lack humor, and the underlying lessons are all too obvious. Perhaps the novel's problem is in its subject: The earlier topics (messy rooms, pinewood-derby racers) brimmed with comic potential, where math issues are rarely hilarious. Occasionally the humor hits its mark. The picture of a bearded Frankie in the same math class with his little sister will bring a chuckle to any child who wonders just how many grades someone could be held back in school. This hybrid story—prose when Frankie is in the real world but depicted in comic-book panels when he daydreams—still holds appeal for Frankie’s fans and new readers looking for something after their umpteenth reading of Captain Underpants.Ultimately, math teachers and parents might like this mildly amusing offering, but it just won’t add up to much for many real-life Frankies. (Graphic hybrid. 7-10)