Book review of That Always Happens Sometimes by Kiley Frank

Book review of That Always Happens Sometimes by Kiley Frank


Get ready to fall in love with Max, the irrepressible elementary school narrator of That Always Happens Sometimes. He’s full of energy and enthusiasm that constantly erupts like a volcano.

In Kiley Frank’s clever text, Max poses a series of questions that reveal his personality, such as “Have your electric pencil sharpener privileges ever been revoked because of an unfortunate incident with a crayon?”  On each spread, K-Fai Steele’s illustrations beautifully capture Max’s gusto and the path of debris—not to mention consequences—that follow. His parents and teachers try to rein him in with multiple checklists (items include “keep hands to myself”) and interventions (tennis balls on the legs of his chair to squelch his noisy movements).

Both Frank and Steele excel at conveying much with small, powerful flourishes. For instance, in the chaotic aftermath of Max’s parents trying to get him to school on time, Frank writes, “The car ride to school was very quiet,” while a full-page spread uses just a few strokes to show Max in the back seat clutching his backpack and his father gripping the steering wheel, fury flashing in his eyes and tight-lipped mouth.

Frank uses Max’s questions to reveal life at home and at school, and poses variations on his answers to move the story along in creative ways. Max repeatedly notes, “That always happens sometimes,” or “I always feel that way.”  One day, however, he says, “This has never happened before,” as he participates in an intriguing team-building exercise that produces surprising and affirming results for all.

Young and old readers alike will recognize themselves or someone they know in Max. That Always Happens Sometimes is a delightful book guaranteed to bring on both laughs and greater understanding of the many Maxs in the world.

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