Age Range: 9 and up
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (May 28, 2013)
Julian Twerski isn’t a bully. He’s just made a big mistake. He has done something he is deeply ashamed of, something that goes against the grain of his conscience. 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 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.
There’s nothing like a ‘real’ story to bring a smile to one’s face. The book was inspired by author Mark Goldblatt’s own childhood growing up in Queens during the 1960s. Reading it, one can’t help being taken back to the ‘growing up’ years, when everything is confusing, nothing goes right, everyone else is cooler/faster/cleverer and girls are an unfathomable mystery. Told from Julian’s point of view in typical middle-grader stream of consciousness, the author takes the reader on a trip back in time. Incidents pack Julian’s life and he reacts to them in a visceral and sometimes confused way. Life lessons can be hard, and Julian rolls with the punches, doing his best. He doesn’t always pull it off, but he does make sense of things where he can. Julian is a likeable character and he truly does want to make amends. Kids will enjoy this, but I think their parents will also relish this trip down Memory Lane. Times may change, but kids don’t. Author Mark Goldblatt’s style is quirky and different, but appealing with a touch of nostalgia. Five stars.
About the author: Mark Goldblatt is a lot like Julian Twerski, only not as interesting (that’s what he says!). He is a widely published columnist, a novelist, and a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Twerp is his first book for younger readers. He lives in New York City.
Please note that I reviewed an ARC. The book will be available on 28 May 2013.
Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.