A movie tie-in book is usually an excuse for a grubby studio to make money, the product rubber-stamped (if even seen) by the film's creator. So the first compliment that can be paid to The Adventures of SharkBoy and LavaGirl: The Movie Storybook based on the 3-D family flick by Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez, in theaters June 10 is that it is a delight unto itself, destined to be a ''Read it again, Mom/Dad!'' bedtime fave. Written by the Sin City auteur and his now-8-year-old son, Racer Max, Storybook feels as homemade and handcrafted as one of Rodriguez's films. Minus the lasso-twirling strippers, of course.
But it does have a literal SharkBoy (gills and great white teeth) and a literal LavaGirl (skin like molten rock), imaginary friends of Max, who, natch, believes they're literally real. One day, Max's strange pals whisk him away from his elementary school to Planet Drool, an indulgent kid-haven whose magical topography includes terrain like the Land of Milk and Cookies. (Kudos to Alex Toader for the cartoony yet detailed illustrations.)
Rodriguez's exaltation of a child's imagination and creativity is well considered and wise. Maybe the best compliment that can be paid to the book is this: It'll leave you praying they don't screw up the movie.