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Calvin Coconut: Trouble Magnet Hardcover – March 24, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
Book 1 of 6 in the Calvin Coconut Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 2–4—In the first installment of a planned series, readers meet nine-year-old Calvin, whose singing-star father changed their last name from Novio to Coconut before leaving the family four years earlier. In Mr. Purdy's fourth-grade class in Kailua, HI, Calvin's year is off to a bad start when he accidentally lets loose his new pet centipede, forgets to pick up his little sister after school, and incurs the ire of middle-school bullies Tito and Frank. At home, he's got to give up his room to Stella, the blond, beautiful but surly teenaged daughter of his mother's friend who's come from Texas to stay for a while. He gets off on the wrong foot with her, too, when he forgets to fix the lock on the bedroom door, necessitating a window escape. Humor, lots of local color, and richly varied cultural details abound in this accessible, fun read, and a map of the town and sketches throughout help bring readers into Calvin's world. (It does seem odd, though, that Calvin's mother would go shopping while her new guest is locked in the bedroom.) While light on character development and more episodic than plot-driven, this title will be enjoyed by readers venturing into chapter books, and it lays the groundwork nicely for the titles to come.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Hawaii-centric Salisbury targets a younger reading set with this first book in the Calvin Coconut series. Calvin is a boisterous boy at home on the beaches of Kailua who somehow manages to find mischief at every opportunity, no matter how hard he tries to keep to the straight and narrow. The story follows him as summer winds down and he gets ready to start fourth grade, navigating through the troublesome wake of a menacing bully, a tough but admired new teacher, and, worst of all, having to surrender his room to a teenage girl from Texas who has come to live with the family. Calvin’s relationships with his younger sister and harried mother—his father abandoned the family to pursue a singing career—add promising depth to the deceptively simple story. Calvin isn’t all naughtiness, but he does tend to forget things, shirk responsibility, and become overly excitable, making him pretty much that Everyboy  many will easily connect with. Rogers’ lighthearted illustrations help flesh out the characters and establish moods without dominating the proceedings. Grades 3-5. --Ian Chipman

Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 410L (What's this?)
  • Series: Calvin Coconut
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books; First Edition edition (March 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385737017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385737012
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,252,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I hope what gives my books their sense of authenticity, other than the natural inculcation of the island physical and cultural landscape, which ends up in my sentences by osmosis, is my use of language. In Hawaii we often speak what we call pidgin English, a kind of tropical patois. For example, in Standard English one would say, "I am going home." In Hawaiian pidgin it would be, "I going home." A simple thing, but over the course of a novel it becomes a bigger thing, a part of a character's being. It resonates. Syntax, too, creates that feeling of authenticity. It comes to me naturally, thank heaven. I don't have to work at it because I simply hear it. If I had to fake it I'd be laughed off the face of the earth. So, growing up in the islands was my gift. My writing is just me spewing it back.

As for the work itself, I'm big on certain issues having to do with boys and growing up. I guess this is so because of my own fractured upbringing. Much of who I am is self-imposed. I am my choices, and I have chosen to walk a certain path. Important to me are such qualities as honesty, friendship, honor, loyalty, integrity, courage, work and passion. Life for anyone is a series of choices, and I hope that fact gets some play in my books. Luckily for me, I have made some good choices. It could have been different. I could have taken pride in the wrong moves, as many boys do. It's cool to be tough. Beating the spit out of someone is good for the rep. It's honorable to attack someone who "disrespects" you by, perhaps, accidentally bumping into you (Hey! You like I broke your face or what?). Right. I could have fallen into that mindset. But I didn't, and I lay all credit to that on one man: James Monroe Taylor, my high school headmaster.

At the end of my sixth grade year my mom saw the light - she kicked my sorry okole out of the house and sent me to boarding school. It was in the middle of Parker Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii, and was the most precious gift she ever could have given me. I loved it. For the first time in my life I had something I really, really, really needed: limits. It was like being at boot camp. Mr. Taylor, as part of his training, took us into his home in small groups and lectured us on the good qualities of life, all that stuff that is now so important to me: friendship, honor, etc. Of course, it was my duty at that time to laugh it off. That fat old man was out of his head. But his words stuck, and because they did, whenever I was presented with a sticky situation I was able to fall back on that foundation and use it to make the better choice. My mother and Mr. Taylor. My hat's off to both of them.

In my career as an author, I've spoken to a bazillion kids, mostly in grades 6 through 8. It's been fun, truly. But I had an epiphany one day, and my newest creation, Calvin Coconut, came to be because of it.

I once spoke to a large group of fifth and sixth graders in a huge gymnasium, and was leaving the school, heading down the hall with the teacher who had invited me. "There's a third grade teacher here in our school who just loves your books," she said as we walked, "and she asked me to ask you if you would be willing to just stop by her class and say hi to her kids. They know about you, too, because she read them one of your short stories."

"Sure," I said. I'd never spoken to third graders. It might be fun.

Boy, was it.

The third grade teacher and every one of her students were literally glowing with excitement, having the AUTHOR in their classroom.

They gathered around, sitting in a semi-circle on the floor. I sat in a chair next to the teacher, who reached over and picked up a plate of cookies.

The kids all leaned forward, eyes bright as a thousand suns, rascally twinkles in them.

"Would you like to try one of the cookies we made in class?" she said.

I didn't, but I was on duty. "Uh, sure," I said.

She pushed the plate closer.

The kids did a magnificent job of stuffing back their giggles as I reached out and picked up a yummy-looking, but - I could tell -- very fake, cookie.

The teacher grinned and I played along and pretended to bite into it. "Bleecck!" I spat, and the kids roared, as if it were the funniest thing they'd ever seen in their lives.

And that's what got me: those beautiful, beautiful faces, all looking up at me in pure delight.

I ended up telling them a story of when I got stuck in a mass of mud, a story I love to tell, and they laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

I left that school a new man, and vowed then and there that someday I was going to expand my writing to include this group. Because I loved those faces and yearn to absorb that energy.

I also wanted to include this younger audience because teachers have told me many, many times that they just can't get their boys interested in reading. I know of their plight. I was one of those boys. I read only one book on my own in all my elementary school years: TARZAN OF THE APES, by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

So Calvin Coconut and I have a job to do. Call Calvin Graham Salisbury light, because I'm bringing real life situations and themes for discussion into every Calvin book, just like I do in my books for older readers. I won't get heavy, I won't get edgy, and I won't be gratuitous. None of this is about me. It's about every kid out there today who is just like the wandering fool I was. Besides the simple enjoyment of writing, my aim is simple: to build trust and turn boys into lifetime readers.

I finally became a reader at thirty. That's how hard it is to get some boys to read. I'd like to join all my very fine writer/teacher/librarian/parent colleagues in changing that a bit. Reading changes everything. Boy, does it!

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Calvin Coconut: Trouble Magnet"
by Graham Salisbury
(Random House, 2009)
This is a fast-moving book about a fourth-grader named Calvin Coconut, who lives in Hawaii with his single mom and little sister. Coconut is his real last name: his now-absent dad was a popular lounge singer ala Don Ho, who changed the family name to suit his career. It's okay, though -- none of Calvin's friends mind him having a made-up name. No one, that is, except the school bully, Tito, who has it in for the younger kid and keeps threatening to beat him up. Anyway, school just started and Calvin is settling in to a new routine, but somehow trouble just seems to keep heading his way, as it often does with ten-year old boys.

"Calvin Coconut" is a very readable, fast-moving book -- the short, four-page chapters help -- and while it isn't great literature, it is consistently engaging and entertaining. There's a little bit of local Hawaiian culture to be seen within its pages, but mostly what kids will take away is how much Hawaiian kids are like kids elsewhere, full of curiosity and prone to misadventure whenever possible. A good, quick read with a likable goofball hero. (Joe Sixpack, ReadThatAgain children's book reviews)
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Format: Paperback
My seven-year-old boy loves these books! He laughs out loud to the humor and sweet mischeif that Calvin gets into. And, Mom likes that Calvin makes the right choice in the end. If your child likes the Wimpy Kid stories, Magic Tree House, and Cap'n Underpants, he/she will love this series. These are sweeter than Wimpy Kid, funnier that MTH, and more ....they remind me of the boys in the movie "Stand by Me"---school, bugs, summer, and sweet fun.
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Format: Paperback
Trouble Magnet by Graham Salisbury is a must read for all. Calvin Coconut is the son of singer Little Johnny Coconut (who changed their family name to coconut). Now that his dad decided to follow his dreams to Las Vegas, Calvin is the man of the house living with his mom and younger sister. He is given a lot of responsibilities, except he keeps messing them up. Calvin wants to be a responsible young man, but that isn't always easy when you are only nine years old.

Today mom has a surprise for Calvin and his younger sister Darci. They are going to be having a fifteen year old girl from Texas move in with them. Calvin new right from the start this was not going to be good. The first change for Cal was moving into the storage room in the garage and giving up his bedroom. Then this girl would be the babysitter for Darci (and Cal) when mom was at work. Who did she think she was giving out orders? Not that she wasn't bad enough, he is also trying not to get in the way of the bully at schools fists. Making Tito mad was not a good idea and Calvin was in some serious trouble. If you want to find out if Calvin survives all of his blunders, you will need to read it for yourself.

Calvin Coconut Trouble Magnet is fun and fast paced. It is sure to keep your child's attention. I would recommend the book for second to fourth graders who enjoy a great story with pictures here and there to keep the interest alive. I have now read two of the Calvin Coconut stories and am truly a fan.

By Kerri J. Busteed
Author of Will's First Hunt Will's First Hunt
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Format: Hardcover
Well-known young adult author Graham Salisbury's newest novel, Calvin Coconut: Trouble Magnet, ventures into the realm of primary grade readers and aspires to charm an entire new group of readers with his small kid stories. Although this is Salisbury's first book written specifically for younger readers--from first graders ready for "chapter books" to fourth graders who are the same age as the class of rascals in Trouble Magnet--this is clearly no longer uncharted waters for Salisbury. The continuing adventures of rascal Calvin Coconut will certainly whet the appetite of younger readers and encourage them to read on their own as well as clamor for their parents or teachers to read aloud to them.

Like the Graham Salisbury I have watched charm student (and adult!) audiences with his natural flow of small kid time stories, in Trouble Magnet he captures the realities of elementary kids' mischievousness, fears of repercussion, and triumphs. As a teacher, I appreciate Salisbury's uncanny knack for understanding and conveying the nuances of the dynamics of the classroom; he shows us both sides, too. We see the frantic teacher on the first day of the school year (Mr. Purdy's Fourth Grade Boot-Camp) trying to figure out which kids are the rascals and need to be seated far away from each other, when to be suspicious of kids' behavior, and how to maintain the fragile balance between order and chaos in the classroom. We also see into the minds of fourth grade "trouble magnet" Calvin and his friends who love to bring excitement (such as jars holding spiders, ants, lizards, mice or even a centipede) with them to school.
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