Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Spaceheadz, Middle School Fiction, and a Rant

Scieszka, Jon. Spaceheadz.
There is a fine line between fourth grade goofy books and sixth grade goofy books, and I was sad to see that the new Scieszka title to which I was so looking forward falls heavily on the fourth grade side. The first clue should have been the cartoony cover and the second should have been the description from the publisher: "Michael moves to a new school and learns that some of his friends are really aliens who have come to Earth in order to convince millions of kids to be Space Heads." The third was the three pages of text in hamster speak. ("Ee eee, ee eeek wee week.")

Scieszka's Knucklehead was brilliantly funny and middle schoolers love it. The difference between the two books? Knucklehead is real. Far fetched at times, but real. I think this is why even 8th graders love the Wimpy Kid books; Greg's travails are overblown, but still fall in the realm of the possible. Students can feel that their lives are not that terrible because what happens to Greg is so much worse than what happens to them, and they can laugh at the embarrassing and horrifying moments, much as they laugh at the cat puke episode in Knucklehead.

This will be popular in elementary schools, and comes with value added web sites, ala The 39 Clues. I will keep waiting and hope that Mr. Scieszka turns his considerable talents to a funny, realistic book for grades 6-8.

THE RANT: Read over the summer that middle school students frequently obsess about their clothing because it is one of the few things in their world that they can control. This holds true for adults, too, which is why, although it is not really relevant to this blog, I feel compelled to say "Tim Gunn must go down." I don't know where this man came from, but he shows up in the women's magazines that my friend Wendy so thoughtfully provides for me, and in the latest Redbook, the man is quoted as saying "Most women wear clothes that are too big-- that's the comfort trap. Women don't want to feel constrained, but I say, if you want to dress to feel as though you never got out of bed, then don't."

Mr. Gunn is shown wearing a suit and tie. No cleavage, no low rise pants, no thigh high, high heeled boots. Hmmm.

I desperately want to assemble an army of sensibly shod women to cram Mr. Gunn into a pencil skirt (they do not look good on everyone), clingy lycra sleeveless top, a statement belt, and heels, then make him spend 8 hours running around, hefting audio visual equipment and piles of books, coaching cross country, and running a bake sale until 9 pm at Curriculum Night. He can also be made to cook dinner and do some laundry in the get up if the women are feeling especially vindictive about low rise jeans.

"No woman needs to look dowdy or matronly-- ever," Mr. Gunn opines. Fine. But maybe some of us want to because we are busy making the world a smoothly running place.

Anyone with me? Cardigan sweaters and turtlenecks will be optional but not required.


  1. Ha, ha! Love the rant. He's such a dolt.

  2. You are very correct. It is well loved in a third grade class. I got it last spring and it has been in a kids book bag ever since.

  3. You're so right: Knucklehead is brilliantly funny.

    I got Spaceheadz for my 6th grader, but he doesn't seem too interested yet. He LOVED Tom Angleberger's Origami Yoda.

  4. turtlenecks make me feel claustrophobic, but i've been collecting cardigans for years. kangaroo pockets are a must. i only wear a skirt and heels on the day i close, since i'm the only librarian here and i'm trying not to look like i'm 14. although a touch of matron might help on those days, i can't seem to pull it off.

  5. I'm with you on comfortable clothes! I'd rather not pour myself into something too tight. Interesting thoughts on Spaceheadz, which I thought was funny. I wonder if middle grade kids enjoy it or if it's a hit only with younger kids.