Thursday, November 20, 2008

Review: Maybelle Goes to Tea

Maybelle Goes to Tea
written by Katie Speck
illustrated by Paul Ratz de Tagyos
(Henry Holt and Company, 2008)

"What an Adorable Cockroach" is not a statement I ever expected to say in this lifetime. My bug-loving daughter? Yes. Me? Uh, no. But in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I did in fact utter those words ... several times. Tell me, would you be able to resist a cockroach with a pink bow in her hair?

The Story
Maybelle and her friend Henry (a flea) live at Number 10 Grand Street. Maybelle doesn't like the risks that come with being adventurous, and she is content to live under the refrigerator in a house where everything is just so: nothing out of place, no leaks, and no bugs. Well, Herbert and Myrtle Peabody don't there are bugs, but that's because Maybelle lives by three simple rules:

  • When it's light, stay out of sight.
  • If you're spied, better hide.
  • Never meet with human feet.
While the Peabodys are getting ready to host the Ladies' Spring Tea, life is taking some adventurous turns for Maybelle. Maurice ( a fly) comes in through an open window and gives himself a concussion trying to leave. Maybelle and Henry know that if the Peabody's spot Maurice knocked out on the windowsill, they are doomed: bug spray and the exterminator. So they rescue Maurice. When he comes to, Maurice is not content to live by the house rules. He has his own rule: Go for it. At first, Maybelle doesn't like Maurice, but as she watches Maurice go after what he wants, she decides that she wants more, too. She doesn't want the leftover crumbs from the Ladies Spring Tea, Maybelle wants to taste what's in the middle of Mrs. Peabody's Chocolate Surprise cookies!

In their own ways, Maybelle, Maurice, and Henry, crash the Ladies Spring Tea, and everything is no longer just so at Number 10 Grand Street. The guests left in disgust, Mr. Peabody set off a bug bomb, and Mrs. Peabody fainted. Lucky for Maybelle, life soon returns to nomrlal, and she is done with adventures. She has learned her lesson, made a new friend, and is now content to enjoy Mrs. Peabody's fresh Raspberry Rapture pie.

The Review
At the risk of sounding like I've gone buggy, Maybelle Goes to Tea is fun. If you haven't read it, I hope that you were able to get some images of the Peabodys and Maurice from the descriptions above. The author's phrasing (everything is JUST SO) and character names (Peabodys) just beg for an aristocratic/stuffy voice.

On the very first page, the author presents Maybelle's three rules very simply, with no fanfare. So two days later, as we were much further along in the story, it was heartening to hear my daughter remind Maybelle of the rules. I often wonder about comprehension when we read just little bits at a time.

Maybelle Goes to Tea is an easy reader that would be fun to share as a read aloud with Kindergartners, first, and second graders. The language is very descriptive, allowing them to conjure images in their mind. The humor and mishaps also add to the fun.

As an easy reader, this is for independent readers who still want/need illustrations. Nearly every page has an illustration, and none of them are full page. Frankly, the story is engaging enough that I don't think kids will miss that "bonus" page they don't have to read. It is also a good candidate for partner reading with reluctant or remedial readers because it is text-heavy, with repetition and lots of common sight words.

Maybelle Goes to Tea is a Cybils nominee in the Easy Readers Category. You can find reviews for this and other books in this category at the Reading Tub website. You'll also find links to other reviews of these same titles there. One final note. These reviews are my thoughts on the books. They do not represent an official position of the panel.

Cinder Rabbit written by Lynn E. Hazen, illustrated by Elyse Pastel
Annie and Snowball and the Teacup Club written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Sucie Stevenson
I Will Surprise My Friend written and illustrated by Mo Willems
I Love My New Toy written and illustrated by Mo Willems
Fancy Nancy and the Boy from Paris written by Jane O'Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glassner and Ted Enik
Maybelle Goes to Tea written by Katie Speck, illustrated by Paul Ratz de Tagyos
Hooray for Fly Guy written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold

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