Star Jumper: Journal of a Cardboard Genius is the first book in a series by Frank Asch (of Moonbear fame). Star Jumper had been sitting in my to-read pile for far too long and I finally had a chance to read it on the train this past week. Whoo hoo! It was an easy choice for my reluctant reader list: the chapters are short, the text is large and well-spaced, and there are great illustrations (from the genius’ own invention notebook) throughout.
Alex (aka The Cardboard Genius) is a Jimmy Neutron-like character who can take a couple cardboard boxes, some wires, a few old trinkets from his dad’s garage, and fashion just about any machine he can dream up. In this case, his mission is to design and build a space ship in order to put as many miles between him and his annoying little brother, Jonathan, as possible. As some of the Amazon reviews attest, Alex is a tad obnoxious and conceited. The intended audience (young boys), however, will probably relate to Alex and his intense need for personal space. While the action is entirely fantastic, the relationship between the brothers and their parents is solidly realistic.
While Alex attempts to construct his getaway spaceship, Jonathan (of course) interrupts continually, pestering Alex to make him a castle instead. As with most little sibling inconveniences, complaining to his parents solves nothing and Alex must learn to compromise, or at least slyly redirect Jonathan’s attention.
The resolution is a tad too sweetsy for my taste, but overall I’d say plenty of reluctant readers in the 8 to 10ish age range will find a lot to laugh at and enjoy. And, if your reluctant reader likes it- there are more!