NEW this week…
Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli
4 of 5 stars
In a childhood fantasy world without any grownups, things begin to take strange changes in the life of one of the biggest kids, Jack.
With the runt squirming in his hands, LaJo recites: “Never pass a puddle without stomping in it. Never go to sleep until the last minute. Never go near Forbidden Hut. Never kiss a girl. OK, go.”
William the runt runs screaming after the puppies.
Jerry Spinelli creates a fantastic childhood fantasy world where bicycles are really wild horses, dolls grow out of the ground like farm vegetables, and the Hokey Pokey man comes with slushies in every flavor imaginable at exactly high noon. This is a magical world where kids run wild and enjoy all the things that make up a childhood. As Jack begins to change, this fun free-for-all story of a lost bike turns into a touching coming-of-age novel that captures the boy’s thoughts as he becomes disillusioned with the childhood games, takes on greater responsibilities, and learns that girls aren’t all “pimplebrain” “watermelonheads” like he thought.
While this was a fun story, I don’t know that I would recommend it to middle grade students, as it’s being marketed for. The kids make up their own terms and language, which makes it hard to understand what they’re talking about until you get into the story — something that younger readers are likely to find frustrating. Also, I don’t know how many middle-grade kids could really understand or appreciate what actually is happening to Jack, as it’s all really one extended metaphor that may very well go over the heads of 8-12 year olds. For somewhat more mature readers, though, who may enjoy reminiscing about their days as “Snotsippers and Sillynillies and Gappergums”… this is a book for you.
Overall: A fun and silly twist on the “coming of age” novel, that delves into the imaginative world of children.