10 December 2012, Little Brown
ARC from Baker and Taylor.
Jamie Grimm wants to be a stand up comedian... well, a sitting down one, since he is in a wheelchair. He has some stage fright that he's working to get over, sometimes by being the class clown. He lives with an aunt and uncle, and his cousin Stevie bullies him mercilessly-- even pushing him out of his wheelchair and abandoning him at one point. Luckily, he has his Uncle Frankie, who lets him tell jokes to the customers in his diner, and several supportive friends who encourage him to enter the The Planet's Funniest Kid Comic contest. He wins, but Stevie starts the rumor that Jamie won only because the judges felt sorry for him. Can Jamie regain his confidence to continue on in the competition? And why is he in a wheelchair and living with his aunt and uncle?
Strengths: This is a notebook novel, so kids will pick it up. I like Chris Grabenstein's work, and I did appreciate that the story is about a boy who wants to be a comedian... who is also in a wheelchair, and not the other way around.
Weaknesses: Not sure I liked holding off on the explanation of why Jamie was in the wheelchair, especially when the reveal was rather melodramatic. Also, the references to "classic" comedians and their jokes might be lost on students.
I must admit that I'm torn about Patterson's work in the same way that I'm torn about books by Ronde and Tiki Barber, Cal Ripken, A'mare Stoudemire, and anyone writing as Matt Christopher. I don't feel as bad about Christopher, since he has passed away, so it's not like he's pressuring Stephanie True Peters to work for him. But the situation bothers me, and I'd love an explanation. Is it to Kevin Cowherd's advantage to write for Cal Ripken? Since Grabenstein has done his own books, why is he writing for Patterson? Certainly, Read Kiddo Read is a good project. Maybe I'm just worrying for nothing. I was very happy to see that the third Middle School book is by Lisa Papademetriou.