The Jake Maddox Graphic Novels series was designed with young readers in mind. These sports-centered stories all present a teen athlete who has a recognizable weakness, learns a lesson, overcomes the weakness, and then goes on to win the game in about 65 pages. Each book spells out the flaw clearly, and each ends with a glitteringly clear resolution. While these stories can be unbearably predictable for an adult audience, I believe they give readers who are working on skill development the right amount of practice to read for character, plot, and theme.

I also applaud the books for covering issues relevant to a wide range of students on and off the field. In Soccer Switch, Andre faces frustration and disappointment in a new coach’s unusual techniques. Comeback Catch focuses on Eddie as he learns to feel more comfortable at the batter’s mound instead of behind the plate. Daydream Receiver has Gus realizing he can’t just be caught up in dreams; he also has to work hard towards these goals. In Double Scribble, Diego has to overcome his disappointment of losing the game to regain a sense of himself.

However, a consistent weakness in the series is the lack of attention to graphic art relative to the story. These illustrated novels have a mild artistic sense, where the art serves mostly as a comprehension aid and does much less to push the story forward or to draw readers towards a deeper meaning. The art mostly relies on a limited range of emotions and gestures from the characters, simple paneling, and solid backgrounds. More attention could be paid to the visual senses of these stories, whether it be towards portraying the athletic victory or towards illustrating inner thoughts and feelings.

Another weakness is the use of sophisticated storytelling structures (flashback, inner monologue, dream sequences, and story-in-a-story) to tell highly readable stories. I am concerned that students who would be able to understand the characters, plot, and themes independently might get hung up on the structural elements, such as telling the difference between a character’s inner dream sequence and outer real-life action. However, some might make the case that these books can be used to teach readers about these structures.

I encourage children and teen librarians who are in need of engaging instructional tools for developing readers to look into the Jake Maddox series for their libraries and schools.

Comeback Catcher (Jake Maddox Graphic Novels)
by Eric Braun
Art by Bere Muñiz
ISBN: 9781496537003
Capstone, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

Daydream Receiver (Jake Maddox Graphic Novels)
by Brandon Terrell
Art by Eduardo Garcia
ISBN: 9781496537027
Capstone, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

Double Scribble (Jake Maddox Graphic Novels)
by Brandon Terrell
Art by Arburtov
ISBN: 9781496537010
Capstone, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

Soccer Switch (Jake Maddox Graphic Novels)
by Brandon Terrell
Art by Arburtov
ISBN: 9781496536990
Capstone, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

  • Amy Estersohn

    | She/Her Past Reviewer

    Amy Estersohn is a seventh grade English teacher at Hommocks Middle School in Larchmont, NY and the inheritor of a large classroom library. She has always been struck by the ability of graphic novels to convey a story that transcends written language alone. That story can be for developing readers, such as the time a five-year-old saw her reading Akira on the subway and snuggled next to her, insisting he “read” along, or it can be for proficient readers who want to explore a topic in more emotional depth, such as Don Brown’s depiction of a post-Katrina New Orleans in Drowned City. She holds a BA from the University of Chicago and an MA from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!