May 28, 2013

Review: Twerp

I read the majority of this novel while on the treadmill/bicycle/elliptical. It was a great read because it kept me engaged while I was sweating to death - and I did not even notice. I mean, I noticed I was sweating of course, but I guess my point is that Goldblatt had me so enthralled with Julian's story that the time passed quickly.

This it
Title: ‘Twerp’
Author: Mark Goldblatt
ISBN: 9780375971426
Pages: 288
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Available: May 28th
Source: Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

It's not like I meant for Danley to get hurt. . . .

Julian Twerski isn't a bully. He's just made a big mistake. So when he returns to school after a weeklong suspension, his English teacher offers him a deal: if he keeps a journal and writes about the terrible incident that got him and his friends suspended, he can get out of writing a report on Shakespeare. Julian jumps at the chance. And so begins his account of life in sixth grade--blowing up homemade fireworks, writing a love letter for his best friend (with disastrous results), and worrying whether he's still the fastest kid in school. Lurking in the background, though, is the one story he can't bring himself to tell, the one story his teacher most wants to hear.

Inspired by Mark Goldblatt's own childhood growing up in 1960s Queens, Twerp shines with humor and heart. This remarkably powerful story will have readers laughing and crying right along with these flawed but unforgettable characters.

My Thoughts:

I am always looking for books for tween boys because, let’s be honest, this is the age that boys start to step away from books. After all, the demands on their time are great, and reading tends to fall in the bottom of that category. I’m not saying this is true of all tween boys, but my experience and observation has shown that this is the age where boys step away from the printed page.

With that said, it’s important to write for tween boys on topics that interest them. Topics that will make them want to read. For fun. On purpose.

Goldblatt’s book is one of those reads. This novel reminded me of an Andrew Clements’ school story. The feel was the same as was the execution.

When we met Julian, he is in a lot of trouble. But, there is one person in the building willing to take a chance on him, his English teacher. Instead of writing the stereotypical Shakespeare paper that is required, Julian is given a chance to tell his side of the story. Instead, he finds himself writing a book—and finds himself learning life lessons.

One life lesson: do not, under any circumstances, write a love letter on behalf of your best friend. The girl could easily believe that the letter is actually from you, even if you tell her it is not, and chaos will ensue. See, life lesson. And this one is an important one.

The plot is nicely paced for the age group. The chapters are not too long and not too detailed. It’s very conversational—which I believe a lot of tween readers will enjoy and can connect with. Basically, Goldblatt has made it easy for the reader to have a conversation with the text, which would be great to discuss in a classroom. This is what I as a teacher am always trying to get across to my own students—the writer is having a conversation with you, talk back to him/her. A chapter from this book would be a great way to introduce that concept, especially to sixth graders.

As a character Julian is solid. Of course he is flawed, I mean, he is in sixth grade, but he is honest, and true, and has a good heart. His problem is that he does not always surround himself with the best people to call friends. Scratch that. I take that back. His problem is that he is in sixth grade and does things boys of that age will do. It’s just his friends are there with the fallout.

And what friends does Julian have. They will fight until the end of time for one another—unless betrayal happens—and they remind me of the boys from ‘A Christmas Story.’ Talking smack, always challenging one another, and of course shenanigans happen. Instead of a tongue stuck to a telephone poll, eyebrows are singed off.

Basically, this book is for the fourth to sixth grader in your life. While I recommend it for a male audience, I think tween girls will enjoy it as well, if they are big readers.

I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this so much was that I have an eight-year-old little boy, and I can see some of this being his life, but I also teach high school juniors who love to share childhood stories about one another. In that way, I connected with this book both as a mom as well as an English teacher.

What’s the best realistic fiction novel you’ve read in a while? Who is your favorite author for tween boys?

Comment below and let’s talk about books.

Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

No comments:

Post a Comment

I would love to hear from you