Mal and Chad--The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever!, a graphic novel by Stephen McCranie, is one whose kid appeal is tremendous--my nine year old pounced on it, read it in a single sitting, and it disappeared for several weeks into the circle of his reading friends at school (which includes both boys and girls), who all liked it lots (it's perfect for nine year olds). When I finally got it back, I enjoyed it very much myself!
Mal (short for Malcolm) is a kid genius who's determined to keep his super intelligence a secret--he doesn't want to be sent off to college. So he builds his rocket ship and time machines off in the woods, works hard on answering questions in school with age appropriate language, and tries to keep it a secret that Chad, his very cute dog, has been taught to talk.
A class assignment on "What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up" inspires Mal to use his time machine (a modified elevator) to travel back to the time of the dinosaurs to see if he wants to become a paleontologist (although the author says archaeologist....a pet peeve of mine). The machine works, and Mal and Chad encounter dinos--including a very sweet baby--and they return unscathed, sort of. The elevator gets charged by a dino right as they are leaving, and crash lands in a vacant lot.
The self-proclaimed smart boy of Mal's class sees it, and figures out it's a time machine---and uses it...with disastrous results. A hole is ripped in space-time, and unless Mal can set things right, the girl he's crushing on will be trapped with the dinos forever...
It is a good, amusing, story with tremendously engaging characters. Chad is now one of my favorite fictional dogs; though I myself am not a dog person, I could not resist the cuteness of his puppy eyes pleading expression (used very effectively on Mal to let him play with the baby dinosaur). The dynamics of school life are also rather appealingly presented--Mal's struggles to appear normal, and his struggle to get the attention of the girl he's crushing on are rather moving.
I will be buying the next two Mal and Chad stories for Christmas presents, with perfect confidence that they will be welcomed and enjoyed.