Noah’s Knapsack: The Story of Spaghetti Mountain and the Extra Spicy Meatball

Mike James
Illustrator: Daniel Rodrigues
FriesenPress (2021)
ISBN: 978-1525590405
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (4-2021)

“Noah’s Knapsack: The Story of Spaghetti Mountain and the Extra Spicy Meatball,” by Mike James, illustrated by Daniel Rodrigues, is a quirky and cute tale tailor-made for kids who love adventure, fun, and silliness. Children are introduced to Noah and his good buddy and dog, Rufus, as they fight a bad clove of garlic, try to survive the dangerous Swamp Bolognese, and go head-to-head with Noah’s worst nightmare, The Extra Spicy Meatball and his breath of fire.

This is the first in what promises to be a good series and aims to send a message to young readers–that art is a good way to unleash their imaginations and express themselves. Speaking of art, the artwork in this book is perfect for kids who love offbeat pictures with their stories. It can remind you of a cartoon from Nickelodeon or the Cartoon Network, along the lines of “Adventure Time” or “Ren and Stimpy”.

I like the way this story starts out, with an introduction to the characters–who Noah is and what his personality is like. He likes adventure and is basically a normal kid, with a dog named Rufus. But a setback for Noah is that his parents don’t understand his need for adventure, quests, challenges, and escapes. So, what does Noah do? He creates his own adventures, by drawing them. So, really, Noah uses art as his way to explore the world, free his imagination, and satisfy his need for adventure. He calls these “Radventures”, combining the words “radical” with “adventure”.

The first of Noah’s adventures we read about is the one with spaghetti. Noah doesn’t like his mom’s spaghetti, so he sneaks it to his dog Rufus, who sneaks it to a houseplant, and then the two head off to Noah’s room, where the real meat of his adventure begins–on paper with crayons, where he draws spaghetti. But then something strange happens: The paper opens like a window, growing bigger and bigger the more he draws, and pulls both Noah and Rufus through the window into the REAL “radventure”. They land at the foot of Spaghetti Mountain, but Rufus is now a mule. They begin to climb, and meet characters and danger on the way, mostly spaghetti or food related, like an army of mini meatballs to conquer.

This is the kind of book kids can read alone, which would be fun enough, or with parents or other friends. It’s entertaining, and the illustrations give life to the images in your mind. This lively book is fun, while exploring the ideas of how to have adventure through art and imagination. “Noah’s Knapsack: The Story of Spaghetti Mountain and the Extra Spicy Meatball,” by Mike James, and illustrated by Daniel Rodrigues, would be a great addition to any school library, children’s reading circle, or book club.

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