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Review: Extraordinary Ernie & Marvelous Maud by Frances Watts

Extraordinary Ernie & Marvelous Maud
By Frances Watts
Illustrated by Judy Watson
Eerdmans Books
ISBN: 978082853639
Grades 2-3
In Stores

Quality low-level series don’t grow on trees. Well actually, Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maud doesn’t either – it hails from the UK – but I think you get where I’m going here. Light fun for kids who are a step above easy readers, yet are still in the early stages of chapter books, Extraordinary Ernie is the first book in a series that will charm scores of youngsters.

Ernie is not extraordinary. Remove the “extra” part and you’re getting closer to the truth. When the local branch of the Superhero Society holds a tryout for some new blood, Ernie is the only applicant, so he’s welcomed into the group and given a talking sheep sidekick named Maud. With the help of the other heroes our unlikely duo learns the ropes of becoming super, before striking out on their own local adventure. Ernie and Maud realize they may not have superpowers, but they work pretty well as a team.

Watts does a good job of bringing the concept of superheroes down to earth, an approach that brings out humor as these invincible men and women talk and act like everyday Joes and Josephines. Through it all Ernie is likeable as a kid who wants to be more, but isn’t quite sure how to get there.

Really, this book had me within the first couple pages. You have to love a setup like this:

The idea of a child being chosen for a life as a superhero will delight many a young reader. And the comedy of “winning” a sheep as your sidekick will make them laugh.

Sketchy pen and ink illustrations add a nice touch, guiding the reader through key moments. Watts tells a story that humanizes superheroes, and Watson’s illustrations reflect that – there are no superman-esque physiques to be seen here.

A nice start to a series that is easy to love, Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maud will make a solid addition to the ranks of your early chapter book fare.

Review copy from publisher.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.