We’ve had a rough couple of weeks here at the Rowhouse. Everything is in transition. You know how transitions are. Plus we’ve been sick. Is there anything worse than a spring cold? Plus, we’ve been getting ready for the Folger Children’s Shakespeare Festival, which is today. I hope the kids are able to show off their hard work. And directly after the festival, the most epic thing of all… we’re headed to Global Finals for Destination Imagination. As you can imagine, we’ve been antsy and excited.
We have gotten a little school done amidst all that, but writing assignments for Mushroom got suspended as he very single-mindedly decided he absolutely had to make a comic to share with his teammates at Global Finals. There will be one issue every day with a total of four issues. They’re all short, but clearly drawn and very adorable, about an imaginary Destination Imagination team that is also going to Globals. They have some small adventures and in the last issue, they happen to meet our entire team and trade pins with them.
Mushroom often dreams up big projects like this, but he rarely brings them to completion. His anxiety really gets in his way on that very often. He will begin something and then question his ability to really accomplish it the way he wants and give it up rather than keep working. This time he was convinced he had to finish. He let me help him with his spelling. He even insisted on photocopying, collating, and stapling them himself. I’m so glad that he stuck with this project completely on his own with very little help or prompting on my part. He advocated for wanting to work on his own project during all our writing time and I was happy to agree.
One of the things we’ve been aiming for this year has been more kid-driven learning. Up to this point, the kids haven’t really wanted to drive their own learning as much. Even when they’ve had their own projects, they’ve wanted school to stay school. Slowly though, they’re advocating for picking more of their own work, which is exciting to me. I do want to get back to some of the things we had originally intended to do in the last week, but this is much more exciting – a writing and art project he dreamed up himself, carried out without help, accepted some help editing in the last stage, and now has published himself to give out to friends.
So we’re off to Globals! Wish us luck and here’s hoping that Mushroom’s comic series is well received.
Max Axiom is a series of science comic books that I’ve been hearing about for awhile, but finally broke down an bought a few of. Unfortunately, they don’t have them at my library. There are many volumes of the series out, covering a wide array of topics across the sciences. The ones I bought were about cells and photosynthesis, to tie into our life science study this year, but there are titles about nearly everything.
There’s a lot to like about them. The information in each volume is great and the concept is just plain cool. I like that the main character, as well as many of the other characters, are people of color. Sometimes series like this have very mediocre art, but the art in these is perfectly fine. The writing is also fine. Each volume is short and would be readable by most kids second or third grade and up and could be a good introduction to the topic all the way through middle school.
Sadly though, they weren’t quite what I hoped for. The publisher advertises that Max Axiom uses, “powers acquired in a freak accident,” and that he can shrink down to explore an atom or actually ride on a sound wave. Cool concept, right? Reading that, I imagined Max Axiom was a superhero Mrs. Frizzle, using the powers of science to catch the bad guys. I wanted him fighting El Seed and explaining plant reproduction at the same time or riding that sound wave to defeat some bad guy who made annoying noises while explaining how sound waves work. Or something along those lines. Regardless, I imagined there was a plot. There’s not. That description on the back of the book is more plot than is actually contained inside the book. If Max Axiom did get his powers from a freak accident, it’s never referenced in these volumes. Max Axiom just looks cool and explains the concepts for us or some random kid who asks about them.
Basically, I think these were a wasted opportunity. They’re not bad or anything, and they do look appealing so they may get some kids reading about science and have probably sold well to schools looking for “fun” supplements. If they did have them at the library, I would definitely check them all out. However, they don’t really do anything more engaging than a Let’s Read and Find Out book (though at a slightly higher level of knowledge) and they’re not even as creative storytelling as a Magic School Bus book.
For a better, more nuanced comic about science, take a look at Jay Hosler’s work for older kids and adults. For younger kids, the two Zig and Wikki books from TOON Books cover ecology topics and also have a lot more creativity to them than this series.