Hi all! Just 21 MORE DAY UNTIL HALLOWEEN! Got Megan’s Halloween costume figured out (She’s going as the White Rabbit and I’m going as Alice. I’m always chasing after her, so may as well have a costume that fits), gotta figure out if I”m making or purchasing mine yet.
For this entry I’m varying from the picture books I’ve been looking at thus far and changing gears to a good early reader chapter book. One of those difficult “next step up from the readers” books that I get asked about on an almost daily basis. Katharine the Almost Great is a good series for both boys and girls. Can’t Keep Trackula of Jackula by Lisa Mullarkey; illustrated by Phyllis Harris focuses around Katharine’s baby brother (Jack) and the influence of Halloween on Katharine’s wild imagination and her flair for the dramatic.
Katharine the Almost Great, dubbed by her parents as “Almost” because they consider her a work in progress due to her dramatic nature, doesn’t like to admit that she is still scared of the monster’s of Halloween. After watching the movie Dracula with her cousin Crockett and her baby brother Jack (who loved whenever Dracula came on the screen), Katharine is spooked but not willing to admit it. After laying down on the couch for a short nap, she is awakened by someone biting her toe; her brother Jack. Katharine (basing her rationale around the movie), begins to believe Jack (who is teething) has become a vampire: JACKULA! As Jack struggles with his teething, sprouting teeth randomly and being up at all hours of the night, Katharine tries to convince her family that this is not her baby brother anymore, this is a vampire!
Katharine is further convinced when Vanessa, aka Miss Priss-A-Poo, hands her a book 101 Ways to Tame Monster Siblings and says that she (Vanessa) believed her little brother to be Frankenstein. As Katharine follows the tips in the book to prove that Jack is now Jackula, Katharine finds that she is getting in more and more trouble with her tired parents and eventually is accused by the school principal of stealing some Halloween costumes. Katharine will need to prove that not only is Jack a vampire, but that she did not steal the costumes before the Halloween parade on Friday!
This is a funny tale of a big sister dealing with her baby brother and her family as they all struggle through a very trying time, TEETHING. The Halloween atmosphere plays into Katharine’s imagination and her dramatic tendencies create trouble and stress on her mother and father. Older siblings will connect with Katharine as she tries to figure out why her cute little brother has suddenly turned into this “biting little monster.”
The dialogue and first person narrative really give young readers a character that they can connect with. Katharine, whenever she is in trouble or is stalling for time, will recite a random fact from her calendar of 365 useless facts (Did you know that cats have 290 bones and 517 muscles in their bodies?). This will often lead to an inner monologue that bounces around in a chaotic normal third grader fashion that children will enjoy, but also does not vary far from the topic.
The illustrations are dispersed to help break up chapters (which are nice and short). The paragraphs are blocked, indented, and double spaced so that each new paragraph is obvious. This is often helpful to early readers; it gives clarity to who is speaking and helps them see the breaks in written language which will carry into the next level of books and eventually their writing. This is a great Halloween story for those just gaining confidence in their reading. Katharine the Almost Great is a fun character and one that many girls and boys will connect with.
Author: Lisa Mullarkey
Illustrator: Phyllis Harris
Age: 2nd-4th grade
Series: Katharine the Almost Great: Uses her Common Sense, The Biggest Star by Far, Major Mama Drama, The Red, White, and Blue Crew, and Bent Out of Shape
Publisher: Magic Wagon, Edina, Minnesota