Picture Book Round-Up: The Sidekick Edition, Part One
(Or: You Brought Marshmallows, Right?)

h1 November 14th, 2007 by jules

{Note: Please see the post below this one for today’s Robert’s Snow schedule}

Ah, sidekicks. So under-appreciated. So underpaid. I’ve got a stack ‘o’ picture books I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while (I’m in catch-up mode now, so here go some picture book posts, starting today and as often as I can) that in one way or another feature a sidekick or an, uh, sidekick-esque character. And we just have to start things off with the most sidekick-y one of all, the new Max and Pinky title from Maxwell Eaton III, The Adventures of Max and Pinky: Superheroes (Knopf Books for Young Readers; October 2007; review copy).

I reviewed the first Max and Pinky title here in March of this year. This was our introduction to the duo — the bald-headed, Charlie-Brown-esque Max who loves to hang out with his best bud, Pinky, a piglet who lives for marshmallows. They love adventure, and they’re tight, y’all. As I mentioned in that review, Kirkus Reviews nailed the book’s charm: “a warm affirmation of budship.” And Eaton’s style is spare, rendered economically and with bold colors (mostly blues and greens) and thick black outlines, all colored digitally. Spare but humorous. There are lots of laughs — mostly in the form of their bubble-speak asides — in that title.

And in this new one. This time there’s a wee bit of tension: Max and Pinky want to play superheroes (“the world needs help, so off they go!”). After practicing their superhero moves and trying on superhero outfits (via two very funny spreads), they set out to save whales, battle snow monsters, and stop falling meteors. But it ends up being “MIGHTY MAX” and “his stubby sidekick.” Ouch. Poor Pinky. He tries valiantly to suck it up, but after some humiliating commands from Mighty Max (“plug up that hole” in a volcano, while Max saves a whale; “keep him busy” as Max battles a snowmonster; and “watch this sidekick,” as Max catches the biggest offending meteor heading for Earth and Pinky gets clobbered by another smaller one), he finally quits. But later — when Max gets his head, strangely enough and with no explanation, caught in a fence — Power Pinky saves the day.

The primary charm of this series is its humor, and it will keep fans returning. But it’s that friendship between Max and Pinky that will also warm readers’ hearts, and it’s clever of Eaton to introduce some tension in this second title, all in the name of a satisfying reunion at the book’s close (of course, marshmallows — and this time lemonade — are involved) — not to mention elementary-aged children have such power struggles often (Who will be Batman? Who will be Robin?). Child magnets these titles are. Unfortunately, they are a bit cumbersome in the name of group read-alouds with the many character asides, but that still can’t stop a teacher or librarian from doing it — and hamming it up — anyway. They’re perfectly fitting for a lap-sit read with your favorite child, preferably even one learning how to read.

Fortunately, since the last line of this one is “{t}he adventures continue,” we’re in for some more Max and Pinky fun. But then Eaton made that clear with the first book as well. Here’s to their further adventures . . .

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Note: Don’t miss Darla’s entertaining feature of Maxwell Eaton III and his ’07 Robert’s Snow snowflake here from the end of last month at Books & other thoughts.

7 comments to “Picture Book Round-Up: The Sidekick Edition, Part One
(Or: You Brought Marshmallows, Right?)”

  1. Sidekicks are so underappreciated, but maybe if people realized that sidekicks were superheroes in training, they’d realize that Robin became Nightwing. Hmm… who else? Is there a “Superhero Academy” whereby sidekicks are like squires to knights?

  2. Way to validate those under-appreciated sidekicks, Alkelda. Maybe Power Pinky will get his own book one day, but I’d miss Mighty Max.


    I ought to make a T-shirt (or bumper sticker) that reads:

    Sidekicks are Superheroes, Too!

    Also, a pig named Pinky = brilliant.

  4. Alkelda: Someone is going to totally use that idea if you don’t use it!

  5. Little Willow, I KNOW! and D’oh! I totally meant to link to your sidekick list, but thanks for doing so for me. Wahoo!

  6. Little Willow: I hope someone does! I wouldn’t mind a mention in the acknowledgements page, of course.;)

  7. I love finding new superhero picture books! Thanks for reviewing this, Jules. It looks like a book I’ll want to pick up. And yeah–sidekicks are important, too. 🙂

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