Friday, July 31, 2015

Benji Franklin, Kid Zillionaire: Money Troubles by Raymond Bean

This book is set to be released tomorrow,  August 1, 2015, along with a few other books from Capstone Young Readers that I've previewed through NetGalley. It is probably categorized as middle grade fiction, though I would say that it probably fits best in a category I'd call younger middle grade fiction. It's the fourth Benji Franklin book to be published, and the first Benji Franklin book that I've read. Capstone has created a web page about the series, so if you want to know more about it, click here for the link. If not, below is a paragraph from NetGalley about the book, and what I thought can be found below that.

Benji Franklin is the world’s go-to super genius. He’s already saved the planet twice before, and now he’s at it again. With the help of his extraordinary problem solving skills (and a solid gold submarine or two), he’ll be busy stopping dangerous underwater earthquakes and catching outer-space cyber criminals! But with balancing saving the world and doing his homework, are there some problems too challenging for even the Kid Zillionaire?

Benji Franklin: Kid Zillionaire kind of sums up the tone of this book right in the title. Benji (that's short for Benjamin) is a boy with so much money that a real number just won't do to describe it. (If you are unaware, there is no actual number that is assigned the name zillion. It's just a word people use when they are talking about a quantity so enormous that real numbers aren't cutting it.) In short, Benji Franklin is supposed to be a modern adolescent who is so wealthy that mathematics cannot adequately describe his bank account.

What does the egregiously wealthy child do? He makes extravagant and senselessly expensive purchases (like a gold submarine with orange lightning bolts on the side), attends elementary school like a normal child, and solves problems for inept rich businessmen who value discreet service more than expertise. This book isn't meant for the analytical reader that will slowly pick it to pieces. It's pretty easy to poke holes in everything from the plot, to the characters, to the incidental details that just don't seem to add up (like a spaceship that needs a spacious runway to land despite having the ability to hover while magnetically picking up or dropping off a submarine). This book is meant to be a zany and fun caper with cartoon-like silliness and suspense. As Kirkus Reviews so perfectly described the first book in the series, "This book is the best cartoon that Hanna-Barbera never made." Think of it like Tony Stark and/or Bruce Wayne having a richer nephew that decides to be a private investigator instead focusing on finishing elementary school. He's a bit of a braggadocios egomaniac, going so far as to as to refer to himself as a superhero simply because with enough overpriced gadgetry and fairly transparent nonviolent criminals to outwit, he's been able to repeatedly save the day.

I can see this appealing to 7 and 8 year old boys particularly, as Benji lives an adolescent boy's fantasy life. He's rich beyond anyone's wildest imaginings; the whole world (including his parents and his school principal) kind of bows to his greatness, and his only real adversaries are a girl from his class named Cindy with whom he maintains a battle of wits for elementary school supremacy, and an ever growing pile of schoolwork that he can't seem to fit into his busy "superhero" schedule. I laughed a couple of times as I read this, and I'm sure the right reader would do the same. All in all, it's a good read for it's intended audience. It's a bit nonsensical and even a little delusional at times, but if you can buy into the insanity, it can be a fun ride.

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