Trouble Magnet (Calvin Coconut #1)
by Graham Salisbury
Illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers
Wendy Lamb Books (Random House)
ISBN: 9780385737012
Grades 3-5
In Stores


It seems like every other book that’s published these days has a #1 slapped on the spine. I can understand why. Series books allow readers to get comfortable with characters and form a connection that can last over the course of a lot of reading. They’re also the ultimate “what do I read next” solution:

Young Reader: What should I read next?

Me: Well, you read and enjoyed the first outing of Horrible Harry, correct? Might I humbly suggest that you will likely find the second installment of interest.

Young Reader: Why are you talking like that?

Me: Sorry. Try book #2.

Anyway, series books often introduce characters that kids want to go on adventures with. Magic Treehouse, Harry Potter, Nate the Great, Cam Jansen, The 39 Clues – the list truly goes on and on, and is growing. Kids like series books. And kids are gonna like Calvin Coconut. In Trouble Magnet (Calvin Coconut #1), readers are introduced to a character that is instantly likable, living in a unique setting, getting into the sort of situations that kids will laugh about and identify with. Push this one on your series-loving young readers.

Calvin lives with his mom and six-year-old sister Darci in Kailua, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Just about to start 4th grade (and looking forward to his ex-army teacher Mr. Purdy), Calvin receives some surprising news and some bad news. The surprising news is that the Coconuts will be taking on a temporary new member, 15-year-old Stella, from Texas. The bad news is that she’ll be taking over Calvin’s room (moving him to the bug-infested garage) and eliminating his status as the oldest kid in the family. While our hero tries to sort out that predicament, he also has to do his best to fend off the slow witted school bully (sixth grader Tito Andrade) who seems to have it in for him. These two situations eventually collide, paving the way for a conclusion that will please young readers.

When I first got a load of this book I couldn’t help but think “the story takes place in Hawaii and the main character’s last name is Coconut? Isn’t that sort of, I don’t know, offensive?” That concern was put to rest quickly however when the reader learns that Calvin’s father, a one-hit-wonder singer, changed the family’s last name to Coconut from Novio for career purposes. It’s a showbiz thing. This back story also clues the reader into the fact that Calvin’s dad left for the bright lights of the mainland four years ago and has yet to return.

Calvin himself is refreshingly normal, and his personality drives the jovial, upbeat mood of Trouble Magnet. He’s not a genius, but not a poor student either. Funny, but not a class clown. When difficult situations arise, it isn’t the end of the world to Calvin, but it isn’t fun either. There’s a realism to the character that kids will find comfortable.

With so many #1s being applied to spines these days, it’s easy for new series to run together. With humor, likeable characters, and loads of readability, Trouble Magnet stands out. Keep checking for Calvin Coconut.

Read a Publishers Weekly Q & A with author Graham Salisbury.

Also reviewed by Kidliterate, Literate Lives, Roundtable Reviews.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.