Can drawing the winning entry for a comic-book contest solve all of Tucker MacBean’s problems?
Actually, the seventh-grader’s ever-growing list of obstacles becomes the pressure cooker in which his own true character takes on power. This revelation becomes the kernel of truth needed to make his comic-book avatar, Beanboy, a winner. Harkrader builds realistic settings of complicated family relationships without requiring them to take center stage, including single-parent homes, special-needs siblings, living with grandparents and poverty. The action ramps up when the class bully, Sam Zawicki, is hired to babysit Tucker’s younger brother, Beecher. Although there are an abundance of minor characters, it is the turbulent relationship between Tucker and Sam, crackling with villainous energy even as it warms, that sets the story’s pace. As Tucker’s real problems start to multiply, tension builds in his developing comic book—and with the contest deadline looming, Beanboy has not proven his mettle. The resolution of multiple problems, however, seems to fall like dominoes once Tucker sticks up for Sam at the school dance. Tucker realizes his own power to solve problems, resulting in an epiphany that contributes to be successful end to both his and Beanboy’s adventures.
With a full comic adventure that includes a farting superhero, this is an excellent recommendation for kids transitioning between graphic novels and traditional books. (Fiction. 8-12)