Who didn’t like Aven Green, the armless main character from The Insignificant Life of a Cactus? Author Dusti Bowling has created an Aven Green early chapter book series (Union Square Kids) featuring the loveable spunky girl in third grade. Just as the teenaged Aven, her eight-year-old counterpart is self-confident, determined, and out-spoken. Even though she was born without arms, Aven doesn’t let anything stop her!
Aven Green, Sleuthing Machine features Aven solving a few third-grade appropriate mysteries, including finding her grandma’s missing puppy and finding out who stole her teacher’s lunch. Aven Green, Baking Machine focuses on Aven’s friendships as she enters a baking contest with them and learns to get along. Aven Green, Music Machine focuses on Aven’s determination as she learns to play an instrument, even when others are not encouraging. We haven’t had the chance to read the most recent book yet, Aven Green, Soccer Machine, but the title gives a big clue what that one is about. I predict Aven will learn about Team Work
In her stories, Aven deals with friendship troubles, including overcoming her own bossiness and dealing with harsh words (although there is no bullying related to her lack of arms). She also must overcome feeling left out when she struggles to do the things her friends do. In addition, her family, including her wise grandmother and her parents, give helpful advice as she learns to do hard things.
For me as a parent, the best part of these books is the subtle sarcasm and jokes that only the parents or astute young readers will catch. For example, the family goes on a 3-4 hour road trip and visit a café where a man without arms is playing the guitar. Aven comments on the coincidence that an armless musician was in the café they chose. In a different book, the third graders wonder about the chicken robots a grandfather has and why he complains about them. Later, the reader finds out he was talking about hemorrhoids. Adding such amusing gems made these easy chapter books so delightful to read aloud, even though my first grader didn’t quite understand why the comments were so funny.
Plenty of kid silliness abounds as well, and my first grader has requested more Aven Green books. Each chapter book has 128 pages and black-and-white illustrations interspersed throughout. The series is reading level is estimated to be second to third grade. Most children will not be familiar with the middle grade novel featuring Aven as a teenager. Regardless, the Aven Green early chapter book series is a fantastic series for any young reader to turn to when looking for amusing, unique, and age-appropriate realistic fiction for an early reader to enjoy.