Book Review: Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest, by Marti Dumas ’98
By August, parents and caregivers are thinking about back-to-school reading. Some are wracking their brains, trying to entice a reluctant reader to crack open a book. Others are seeking enough books to keep a precocious reader engaged. For emergent readers who have graduated from easy readers but are not ready for a full length novel, it can be difficult to find chapter books.
Enter Jaden Toussaint, a 5-year-old with pep, science smarts and cool ninja dance moves. And, in his words, a big Afro to go with his gigantic brain. Alas, he does not know everything. And he is not an enthusiastic reader (of books)—understandable since most 5-year-olds are not reading independently.
In Episode 1: The Quest for Screen Time, Jaden, a practitioner of scientific inquiry, shows resource and verve as he goes about achieving his goal, to the delight of his practically perfect teacher and supportive family. Subsequent adventures feature Jaden at home and at school, contending with buck moth caterpillars or worrying that his sophisticated cousin Muffin will upstage him. In book four, the Loup Garou swamp monster statue adds a hint of Louisiana culture to the narrative.
Author Marti Dumas ’98 clearly knows children, boys especially. Readers will relate to Jaden’s struggles to practice patience and his use of dance moves to shake off all his excess energy. He’s a likable character whose innate curiosity makes him an adept problem-solver.
The pacing is quick as Dumas valiantly covers a lot of ground in a scant 48 pages. While Jaden’s solutions are predictable, readers who are fond of series fiction won’t mind. Illustrations and speech bubbles complement the humor and add depth to the narration and appeal for fans of graphic novels.