Book Review 4 – Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little
Moxy Maxwell is a character that has a lot of ideas, is willing to express them, and truly is a director at her young age. She loves to come up with ideas for everyone to improve their lives, yet doesn’t really act upon her own. One example in this book is her assignment to read Stuart Little for the next school year, which begins the very next day. Moxy has had all summer to read this book, an assignment from her next year teacher, to be done before school starts. However, Moxy doesn’t like to be told what to read, or really told what do to in any fashion. The story tells, and illustrates through photographs, all the excuses that Moxy has for not having read the story. After many awful mishaps including the dogs, her mom, stepdad and neighbors, Moxy finally has to lose out on privileges on the final night of summer and has to read the book. Moxy gives the book a try and stays up all night reading the book, sending a message to kids that it is worth giving something new a try, you might just like it.
Gifford, P. (2007). Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little. New York, NY: Schwartz & Wade Books.
The first time I read the book I thought, what is this book? I was not impressed with the layout and thought the author was trying to be too cute. The character Moxy Maxwell was difficult to connect with as I am a doer and a go-getter, while Moxy is a character full of excuses who lies to authority and, while generates a lot of ideas, doesn’t seem to do anything on her own.
The second time through though, I started to connect with the story and some of the characters. First off, the layout of the book is creative. It has chapters that are merely a picture, or simply the word, “No.” Next chapter. The layout could easily connect with kids with a silly side or like their books a little funky.
Concerning the characters, I really loved the neighbor character Sam. He followed Moxy around and simply wanted to please. His character, although I’m not sure this was intended, was really comic relief in a story full of erratic behavior from a house full of eccentrics. He simply would walk in and by being a friendly rule-follower that said, “Yes,” to Moxy and followed her crazy schemes like planting a peach tree orchard or stealing golf balls from the golf course and selling back to the golfers, was hilarious. A part in the story where Moxy is listing her career paths made me laugh out loud. “When Moxy read aloud from the list of 211 Career Paths she was considering, Sam added suggestions of his own. Moxy had never, for example, considered being a shepherd or writing an advice column for senior citizens. Without Sam, she never would have thought of either one.” Imagining a six-year-old telling Moxy that she should consider being a shepherd or grow up to be a senior citizen advice column writer was too much. For me he stole the show and without his character the book would have been mediocre.
Moxy Maxwell as a character was tough to connect with the first time I read the book. However, as I went through it again, I started to see my oldest daughter in her, very strongly. My oldest daughter is very similar. While my second daughter is very strong-willed, she ultimately loves school and wants to do everything assigned to her immediately while my third daughter is a care-taker. The connection that I could draw from Gifford’s character of Moxy to my own life was very important. My oldest refuses to try anything new, and when she finally does after kicking and screaming, she usually loves it after trying it and excels. Moxy Maxwell finally, after a whole summer of excuses that range from lazy to the ridiculous, reads the story on the last night of summer vacation. She stays up all night to read the book, which is a great message to kids: don’t knock it until you try it. I disagree with the professional reviewer who says that this message is a letdown. I would ask, how would you finish the story? Not have her read the book? What message does that send to a kid? This book excels because of Sam’s comic relief, Moxy’s stubbornness and crazy schemes, and the positive message at the end.
Tomorrow is the first day of school, and nine-year-old Moxy still hasn’t read Stuart Little, her summer-reading assignment. She’s running out of excuses: she must clean her room, recover from cleaning her room, train the dog, think about training the dog, and so on. Meanwhile, her mother threatens consequences: Moxy won’t be allowed to perform in her water-ballet show— she is to be one of eight petals in a human daisy—if she doesn’t finish her assignment on time. Gifford spins a fairly universal trial of childhood into a wildly original tale featuring a self-referential narrator who identifies as the book’s author; faux-amateur black-and-white photos of the goings-on, ostensibly snapped by Moxy’s twin brother; and decidedly unchapter-like chapters (one chapter is one word long—“No”; two chapters comprise nothing but Moxy’s brother’s captioned photos). Best of all, the book stars a protagonist whose name, as it reflects her character, is a vast understatement. It’s only a mild letdown that, in what seems to be Gifford’s gratuitous concession to the try-it-you’ll-like-it creed, Moxy ends up enjoying Stuart Little so much that she happily stays up till midnight to finish it.
Beram, M. (2007). Moxy Maxwell does not love Stuart Little. Horn Book Magazine 83(5), p. 576-577.
This book has a very interesting lay-out, and while not a unique look as the illustrator has done this with other books, this book could be used to show kids that there are numerous ways to illustrate books. Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little is illustrated by Valorie Fisher using photographs. Some chapters are solely a photograph taken by a character in the book. In fact, all the photographs in the book are taken by the main characters twin brother, Mark. This book may be used with other books to show that there are many different ways to illustrate a book instead of the standard full-color pictures.