Bound To Stay Bound

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Bulletin for the Center... - 02/01/2012 Comic-book connoisseur Tucker McBean sees an opportunity to help out his struggling single mother when the makers of his favorite superhero, H2O, announce a contest with a hefty prize for the designer of the best superhero sidekick-and if it happens to jumpstart Tucker’s career as a comic-book artist, well, that’s just a bonus. Unfortunately, between seventh-grade schoolwork and looking after his little brother, Tucker doesn’t have much free time to devote to his budding comic creation, Beanboy, and even after his mother hires a babysitter (who, unbeknownst to her, is Tucker’s arch-nemesis and the school bully), Tucker can’t quite find the right inspiration for his character’s heroics and the deadline for the contest is looming. Will Beanboy manage to save the day, or will Tucker find out that he’s just an average nobody after all? Harkrader carefully surrounds a considerable amount of warmth and complexity with fart humor and boyish hijinks, so that readers coming for the wackiness of a flatulent caped crusader may also find themselves pleasantly surprised by the emotional resonance and nuance of Tucker’s tale. There are some pretty heavy character dynamics going on here, including Tucker’s role as caretaker for his developmentally challenged brother as well as his unexpected support for Sam, the aforementioned bully, but these interactions thankfully never veer towards melodrama or preachiness, instead allowing readers enough space to consider how they themselves would act under Tucker’s circumstances. While superhero fans may be disappointed by the lack of an epic good-versus-evil battle, most readers will simply be pleased to see Tucker get a happy ending while Beanboy gets to fight another day. KQG - Copyright 2012 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

School Library Journal - 02/01/2012 Gr 4–7—Comic-book dweeb Tucker MacBean fervently waits each month for the latest issue of his beloved superhero comic, H2O. When the publishers announce a contest to design the protagonist's sidekick, the seventh grader sees it as the solution to his problems. The prize is a full college scholarship, which he hopes to win for his mother so that she can quit her job to focus on school and her boys—Tucker and his brother with special needs, Beecher. Standing in his way is his arch nemesis, combat-boot-wearing, death-glaring Sam (Samantha) Zawicki and the rules for the contest, which state that the prize cannot be transferred. Tucker's superhero has the ultimate weapon—stun gas from emitted flatulence—but the boy struggles to uncover within himself the fearless heart of a hero to serve as the model for the key element of his superhero. Harkrader has created superb characters in a story that interweaves Tucker's developing Beanboy comic and other illustrations, such as sticky-note communications between him and his mother. Fans of Dav Pilkey's "Captain Underpants" (Scholastic) or Jeff Kinney's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" (Abrams) books will embrace Tucker and his winsome, quirky friends and schoolmates.—Michele Shaw, Quail Run Elementary School, San Ramon, CA - Copyright 2012 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.

Booklist - 03/01/2012 Thirteen-year-old comics aficionado Tucker MacBean enters a contest to create a sidekick for his favorite superhero, H2O, hoping to win a college scholarship for his divorced, overworked mother. His alter-ego creation, Beanboy, is strong, uses tendrils as lassos, and employs his gaseous tendencies for flight and as a malodorous weapon. As Beanboy’s character and story develop, so does Tucker’s own ability to respond to the injustices he sees all around him—especially those involving Sam, a girl in his class who uses bravado to battle the bullies who torment her. Harkrader, author of Airball: My Life in Briefs (2005), offers another knowing, funny, and sometimes moving look at middle-school issues. Secondary characters, especially Beecher (Tucker’s younger brother with special needs) and Sam (whose gruff exterior hides a difficult family situation) are well developed, and black line illustrations—pages from Tucker’s comic that form a secondary narrative—add to the book’s appeal. Share this with fans of Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid series. Sequels are promised. - Copyright 2012 Booklist.

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