Saturday, January 22, 2022

Review: Marco Polo Brave Explorer by Cynthia Lord

It's Saturday! Today, in our household, it's time for a little 'egg drop' experiment fun for our science and gravity chapter. Yep, I'm a homeschooling parent (started with my youngest child during the COVID chaos), and we're both loving it! So, what does that have to do with today's read? Well, this one caught my attention because it appeared to be the perfect book to add to a homeschooling program. 

Ready to see if it fits the bill? 

Book Buddies #2
by Cynthia Lord
Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Candlewick Press
Children's Fiction
80 pages
ages 6 to 9

MARCH 8th!!!

Can an intrepid toy mouse help a child venture out of his comfort zone? Book Two of an endearing illustrated series about friendly library toys and the children who borrow them.

Marco Polo is a retired Christmas ornament, but in his mind he is a great mouse explorer. Because he’s tiny and likely to be lost, he is the least-borrowed of the Book Buddies—toys that children can check out of the library just like a book—and he almost never leaves the library. But the little mouse finally meets the right match in Seth, a boy who is about to attend his first sleepover. If Seth were to bring the stuffed bunny he usually sleeps with, he’d risk being teased, but Marco Polo is the perfect size to hide away in his sleeping bag. Are both boy and mouse in for an unexpected adventure? Charmingly illustrated and offering a window into the secret life of toys (including a suspenseful glimpse at where all the household’s lost toys go), Marco Polo Brave Explorer explores common fears and quiet bravery and will leave readers eager for the next episode in the Book Buddies series.



This is a clever idea for a book series, one that promises so much more than a cute much more.

Marco Polo started his life as a Christmas tree ornament, but he didn't like the idea of disappearing into a box with the other ornaments for the year. Luckily, his 'owner' reads his mind and decides to add him to the Book Buddies at the local library where she works. He's a bit on the small side, but she hopes he'll be loaned out like the other animals and receive lots of stories in his journal. Unfortunately, his small size makes him often overlooked or parents fear he might easily be lost. One day, though, a boy sees him and decides Marco Polo might be perfect for a certain experieince.

I did not read the first book in the series, nor is that necessary since these stories can easily be read on their own and in any desired order. Each one centers around one animal, who is a member of the Book Buddies. Marco Polo is adorable right away, not only because he's so small, but he has tons of spirit and a super-sweet personality. The adventure he experiences has a bit of tension, a dash of action, and a tiny bit of danger, making it exciting from start to finish...but definitely nothing more than even sensitive readers of the age group can handle. It's a grabbing tale from start to finish.

The writing flows very well and is perfect for those, who are sure of their words but not ready to tackle larger reads. The vocabulary fits the age group and still throws in a word, every now and then, to help expand the vocabulary. The font is larger and well-spaced for easy reading. Add the wonderful illustrations, and it's a read which visually draws in and doesn't scare even more reluctant readers away.

While all of these things already make this a lovely read, my favorite aspect of this series is the idea behind it. Libraries with this series can develop a new program just like these buddies. I get that the entire COVID scare of the last years does, perhaps, add a little hesitation to the loaning of toys (which I'm sure will change quickly soon), but this is extra special in that the story also promotes the idea of each toy having a journal, where kids write down the adventures they had with the animal while they were loaning them out. It's a great way to incorporate reading with writing and make in inviting for the age group.

My only criticism is that the next book isn't expected to come out until, we're in for a bit of a wait.

And here they are...

Cynthia Lord is the author of award-winning middle-grade fiction. Her titles include Book Buddies: Ivy Lost and Found, the Newbery Honor Book RulesTouch BlueHalf a ChanceA Handful of StarsBecause of the Rabbit, and other books for young readers. Cynthia Lord lives in Maine.

Stephanie Graegin is the author-illustrator of Little Fox in the Forest and the illustrator of many other books, including Book Buddies: Ivy Lost and Found by Cynthia Lord, You Were the First by Patricia MacLachlan, and Water in the Park by Emily Jenkins. Stephanie Graegin lives in Brooklyn.

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