Maple’s Theory of Fun by Kate McMillan and Ruthie Prillaman

Maple, an analytical (and anal) 6th-grader, applies the scientific method to becoming a fun person.

Maple’s Theory of Fun by Kate McMillan and Ruthie Prillaman. Aladdin (Simon & Schuster), 2024, 310 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10

Recommended for: ages 8-12

Maple McNutt and Sunny Gwon have been best friends for 7.2 years precisely. They share scientific interests, parents who work for NASA, and a similar academic career lasting all the way to their current NASA-based magnet school. Maple has recently acquired a journal, which includes watercolor images of butterflies and sayings like “Every day is magical when YOU are the magic.” An unfortunate detail, to her mind: “I specifically told my parents that I wanted the scientific notebook with graph paper only, NOT with inspirational quotes.” Sappy quotes will dog her scientific research on How to Be Fun.

Not that she was planning on becoming fun, but when Sunny dumps her for a more comic companion, how else will she get her best friend back? After intense internet research Maple isolates four elements of the desired goal: 1) Relax; 2) Have a sense of humor; 3) Open up; 4) Do something scary. Each of these is a challenge for her, but help arrives in the form of Lada Quiche (actually spelled Kis), a new student from Hungary. Lada is also interested in scientific research—with a mom who also works for NASA—and Maple quickly promotes her from assistant to full partner in their pursuit of fun. Hilarity ensues, but also a bad mistake that threatens their budding friendship.

Written in the lavishly-illustrated notebook style of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and its imitators, Maple’s Theory of Fun is very fun, with a winsome protagonist, memorable supporting characters, and a sturdy theme of moving on as we grow up. Readers will learn a bit of science and a bit more about the scientific method, but mainly they’ll have non-theoretical fun.

Consideration:

  • A few instances of mild potty humor, like fart jokes.

Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic/literary value: 4.5

Read more about our ratings here.

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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