Thirteen-year-old Tucker MacBean doesn't have it very easy. He doesn't rank very high on the social ladder at school, does his best to avoid Sam Zawicki, the class bully, misses his single-parent mom and wishes she didn't have to work so hard. She works full time during the day and attends night classes at a local college. She mostly communicates with Tucker and his brother, Beecher, through an elaborate Post-It note system.
Tuck needs to meet Beecher's bus every day after school and finds ingenious ways to keep him on track. Beecher has special needs and Tuck has meeting them down to a science - think beige food, food with smiles, allowing him to ascend the stairs to their apartment backward on his butt and constantly reminding him to use the bathroom. Yeah, Beecher is a handful. It's just a lot of responsibility for a seventh grader. Not that he's complaining, mind you. His voice is resigned, yet realistic, slightly sardonic with a pinch of sarcasm. But he feels real affection for his family.
He has a best friend in Noah and a keen interest in art and comics. In fact, his favorite comic is H2O. Tuck likes to ponder superheroes and even keeps a case-file on potential superheroes and their sidekicks for his own future graphic novel. For instance, his brother's superpower is "Grinding his brother's last nerve." Sam is definite villain material. Her superpower is rage. A cryptic comment from Caveman, the owner of the local comics store doesn't immediately sink in until Tucker has to dry his brand new comic after Sam throws it in a mud puddle. It seems that this wet issue is the last until the contest for a sidekick for H20 is decided. The prize is a college scholarship. Tuck figures that if he enters and wins, he could give his mom the scholarship. Then, she wouldn't have to work so hard.
But it's difficult to get any serious work done with Beecher around. There's an after-school art program at his school. Unfortunately, it runs during the time Tucker is expected home to care for Beecher. When Tucker suggests (via a Post-It note) that his mom hire a babysitter, he envisions his downstairs neighbor, not Sam Zawicki. The first-person narrative is helped along with comic book panels, character sketches, index cards, and, of course, Post-It notes.
When I grabbed this off the "New Books" shelf at my local library, I was expecting low brow humor and hijinks. I mean, Beanboy? Come on! What a pleasant surprise to find a unique story, with endearing characters and a heart of gold. The social dynamics of middle school is spot-on. Tucker is a likable, relatable main character. Beecher nearly steals the show and the brothers' relationship is affectionate and close. The secondary characters are interesting and well-developed. Add this title to your list of books with "Wimp appeal" though Adventures of Beanboy has much more depth than those books. I just learned from the author that a sequel, Cool Bean, is scheduled for release in February of 2014. Very cool indeed.
Recommended by: Brenda Kahn, Librarian, Connecticut USA