by Josh Funk
Illustrated Ester Garay
ages 4 to 8
Meet Albie Newton: child genius. He’s a whiz at inventing things. But is he inventive enough to figure out how to make friends?
When precocious inventor Albie Newton enters a new preschool, he concocts the perfect plan for making friends. Unfortunately, it involves stealing the hamster’s wheel, snatching the wings off of Dave’s toy airplane, and generally making a giant mess. Now everyone’s angry at Albie! Will his new invention delight the other kids enough to make everything right—and finally win their friendship?
Albie Newton's extraordinary traits make him into quite the amazing kid. . .until he hits Kindergarten. His ideas and creations stick out so much that the other kids aren't sure what to think of him. He hopes to win them over with an amazing creation, but ends up making them more upset without even realizing it. Luckily, one little girl realizes what is happening. The results are unexpected and tons of fun.
The title alone had us smiling, and it's clear from the get-go that this is going to be about a very smart kid. Albie is a little genius, and the first pages hit on this with tons of fun as he does amazing things and builds contraptions kids wish they could do themselves. The rhymes add to the excitement, flowing seamlessly. They're fun to read and bring across the situations nicely.
Colorful illustrations follow along and add to the emotions and fun. It's easy to follow these alone and get a handle on the story. There's enough detail to draw readers to flip through these again and again.
It's obvious that Albie isn't fitting in and is different from the other kids. His desire to be accepted touches the heart, and the kids are unsure what to do with him. They keep to themselves. This, however, is not a story about bullying or being shut out. Instead, Albie is in his own world and doesn't realize that he's not really pulled into the community. He's happy in his inventive world, trying to build a wonderful present for his new classmates.
This is a story of acceptance and recognizing others' differences, and seeing past them. This message is brought across clearly and easy for even younger readers to understand, especially showing how well everyone can get along if they're willing to forgive and give friendship a try. But my children noticed something else—not only is Albie a whiz-kid, but he doesn't realize what his actions do to those around him as he destroys toys and takes things away from the others without ever recognizing the problem in doing this. As a mother of 'special children' who sometimes have a problem with empathy, this message doesn't hit quite right. Still, there's a lot of inspiration in the girl who sees past it all and keeps disaster from happening.
Still, it's a lovely book and one full of invention, imagination and fun. The message is a little mixed but still hits a good direction kids will be able to understand.
And here they are. . .
Josh Funk is the author of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, How to Code a Sandcastle (Viking), Lost in the Library (Macmillan), and more. During the day, Josh writes C++, Java code and Python scripts, and in his spare time he uses ABC's, drinks Java coffee, and writes picture book manuscripts. Josh lives in Massachusetts and is available for interview. To find out more fun stuff about Josh, visit joshfunkbooks.com and follow him on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks!
Ester Garay is a children's book illustrator living in Sitges, Spain.