By Frances Watt
Judy Watson, illustrator
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Back Cover: The Adventures of Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maud continue . . . but what—or who—is making the usually cheerful and dependable Maud so grumpy? And why are she and Ernie arguing all the time? It seems to Ernie that being his sidekick just isn’t important to Maud anymore. Then Valiant Vera says that if the two trainee superheroes can’t work together, they will be thrown out of the superheroes society! Ernie and Maud must learn the value of teamwork (and how to get a sheep out of a tree) before it is too late.
Opening: Ernie Eggers stood outside the Superheroes Society (Baxter Branch) on Main Street waiting. Maud was late. Because he was a newish superhero—he had only been in training for a few months, after all—it still gave him a thrill to see himself in a costume.
About the Story: Extraordinary Ernie and Marvelous Maud are back with their next caper. This one involves the superheroes themselves. There is one big difference between Ernie and Maud: Ernie is an only child while Maud is a middle child, a typical middle child. Maud is feeling invisible. A kitten runs up a tree and the superheroes go to work. Once down, Tabby tells Maud she ran up the tree because she was tired of being ignored. This gives Maud an idea. Tabby could be a sidekick, just like Maud, and gain the fame and attention she needs, just as Maud does. Maud takes this idea so far that she begins holding sidekick tryouts for middle child animals only. Now Ernie is the one feeling ignored and it might just tear the superheroes apart.
What I Thought: I enjoyed the last edition titled Heroes of the Year (review here) and like this edition just as much. One nice thing about this series is being able to read the editions out of order, if one wishes. The only thing you might miss is the growth of these two heroes as they progress through superhero training. I understand Maud. I am a middle child, too. It was easy to relate to her. Ernie, being an only child, does not get it. Maud tries several middle animals, but none worked out, so she holds a tryout. The Sidekick Tryouts—only middle children animals need apply—is a funny idea. Animals of all types and sorts running sprints, wrestling, chasing fake bandits—or maybe real raccoons—is the most hilarious sight I can imagine.
The writing is perfect for early readers new to chapters, which run four to five pages long, with a plot that is easy to follow. Each chapter also has a full-page illustration and several half-page. I like the illustrations. I like black and whites because my mind can fill in the colors I see rather than what the artist saw. These wonderfully shaded illustrations add depth to the story. Even with black and white, the artist got the eyes of the Maud and her sister to pop. There are small pictures at the top of each chapter page that gives a clue about what happens next. For example, a partial tail hangs down on the chapter page where the kitten ran up the tree.
Young readers will like this series and this edition in particular, if they are middle children. It would not be fair to limit this good story to just middle children. Everyone should read Maud’s story and begin to understand the plight of middle superhero sheep. I like the humor and Maud’s insecurities despite being a superhero’s sidekick. The Middle Sheep is a fast read. As a bedtime story, its eight chapters could be finished in a week. Any child who loves humor and crazy characters, will love reading about how Ernie and Maud became a real super duo—a real team.
Released September 1, 2013
© 2013 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, used with permission
Text copyright © 2013 by Frances Watt
Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Judy Watson
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers is an Imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
- Middle Child’s Day (margegower.com)