Book Review of “The Adventures of Frank and Mustard: Stuck in the Mud” by Simon Calcavecchia

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Firstly, I want to apologize to the author Simon Calcavecchia. I had thought this post had gone up months ago (But myself and my son came down sick with an “undetermined respiratory virus” that took us months to recover from about the time the review was supposed to post.) and while reviewing my site recently, I only just realized recently that this review hadn’t posted as it should have.

Author: Simon Calcavecchia

Illustrator: Arturo Alvarez

Length: 54 pages

Publisher: Book Publishers Network; 2nd Edtion

Genre: Children’s Physical Disabilities Books, Children’s Books on Disability

Release date: January 1, 2016

This book a story about a dog with wheels for back legs and his best friend. It was created to shdisare the author’s experience with quadriplegia, spread a positive message, and create more disability awareness.

Image of Author Simon Calcavecchia at The Tacoma Home an Garden show promoting his book featuring differently awesome characters.

I met Simon Calcavecchia at the Tacoma Home and Garden show this past January. My husband and spent multiple days wandering around the displays and talking with the artists and venders having a great time back before either of us were aware of spreading pandemic.  Simon is an author with disabilities and per our conversation back in January, he is on a mission to try and get more books featuring differently abled characters into classrooms and schools.  Agreeing that this is a noble quest, I offered to review his book for free and feature it on my blog as well as include it in my #WhereHaveTheBooksBeen giveaway for 2020. A free copy of the book has been circulating in the local Little Free Libraries and an autographed copy of the book will be participating in the giveaway. None of this in any way impacts my opinion in the following review.


THE REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars and DD for “Delights Delilah” on the Delighting Delilah scale.

Frank is the most adorable little Dachshund-looking dog who has had his two hind legs amputated and gets around in a wheelchair. Mustard is a bright yellow bird. The two are inseparable. While on an adventure together, Frank’s wheelchair gets stuck in a large stretch of thick mud and Mustard, being a little bird, is unable to get him out so he seeks assistance for Frank. A procession of animals from the woods comes to their aid until there are enough creatures pulling on the wheelchair to free Frank from the mud. It’s cute and heartwarming.

This is primarily a picture book. There aren’t a lot of words, this is a beginners’ book and the story is told as much by the clever illustrations of Arturo Alvarez as by the words of the author. It is appropriate for the Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, and First Grade readers. Children who already have some reading under their belt and are ready for bigger words in their books but not more words in their books.

I think this book would make a great addition to classrooms as it is an easy read for teachers and assistants with few words but large pictures on each page. The end of the book has a series of questions to ask students to help them engage with the concepts and characters in the book. There is also information about the author and information on having him appear for assemblies to talk about being disabled. This book also includes a brief biography of the illustrator with contact information and where to find more of his work on Instagram.

I think the book offers a wealth of educational opportunities and discussion in a classroom setting. First it exposes children who are not familiar with disabilities to characters that are disabled. It opens a dialog to discussion of disabilities. And the information provided about the author and artist can even lend itself to lessons in art and writing.  However, in my opinion, probably the most important aspect of the story is that it also allows for a discussion of safety.

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Mustard’s first choice of rescuers to help pull Frank from the mud is an army of ants. They are too small. Then Mustard brings three mice. Guess what, they can’t help either. Finally, Mustard gets a pig who is bigger than Frank to help free him. While the questions in the back of the book do ask children if they’ve ever been in a similar situation and how they would react if they did get in one. But it leaves how those answers are addressed up to the teachers and adults supervising the reading of the book.

It is never specifically said that Frank and Mustard needed a grownup to help them. Or that they should have looked for help from someone bigger than them. And, if I were reading this book to my young child the first thing I would want him to know is that if he or his friends are in trouble and they can’t solve it themselves, get a grownup. Maybe that’s not how other parents or educators would handle the situation, but that’s okay because the book is open-ended enough that the adults involved with the reading can address that aspect how they feel is appropriate.

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Overall I rate this story a 4 out of 5 stars and DD for “Delights Delilah” on the Delighting Delilah scale for being adorable and educational in versatile ways.

To buy this book and the other hardcover books in The Adventures of Frank and Mustard Series use this Amazon affiliate links:

The Adventures of Frank and Mustard: Stuck in the Mud

The Adventures of Frank and Mustard: Differently Awesome

The Adventures of Frank and Mustard: Wheels and Waves

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