Friday, February 22, 2013

Guy Friday: Notebook Novels From Cartoonists

Awesome fun here in Ohio! "Winter Storm Q" is just messing with our heads-- a "wintery mix" was supposed to start at 2 am., so the students made plans to flush ice cubes and/or throw them in the street, put spoons under their pillows, tape scissors to the window (this is new to me), and wear their pajamas inside out and backwards. I waited an hour to come in to work; of course we have a two hour delay now.

No, wait. School is closed. Back on with the boots for the walk back home. Hope your day is not this... interesting.

And the scissor thing apparently works. Who knew?

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were MadePastis, Stephan. Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
26 February 2012, Candlewick
ARC from Baker and Taylor

Timmy lives with his mother and his polar bear, Total, and is obsessed with his budding detective agency, Total Failure. (His last name is Failure.) He hopes to grow his business so that it makes a lot of money so that his mother can stop stressing about bills, but he is not getting many jobs since the evil Corinna Corinna is undercutting his business, aided by her father's vast wealth.  Timmy has some helpful people in his life, like the playground aide, Dondi, his mother, and his friends Rollo and Molly, even though he doesn't like them. At least they are better than Mr. Crocus, his evil old teacher, Crispin Flavius, his mother's boyfriend, and even Total, who cause enough destruction that he is sent to a zoo. Timmy doesn't do well in school because he is more interested in his agency, his mother's hours are cut and they have to move to an apartment, and his mother's Segway has gone missing.
Strengths: I love Pearls Before Swine and was definitely looking forward to this. The illustrations are great, and I think students will be quick to pick it up. Fabulous beginning: "It's harder to drive a polar bear into somebody's living room that you'd think."
Weaknesses: This was one that I just did NOT understand. Maybe it was too far on the elementary side of the Pilkey line, but I couldn't suspend disbelief long enough to deal with the polar bear, and I didn't particularly like Timmy. I will still buy it, but I wish I could be really gung ho so that the publisher would send me a Timmy Failure watch or Post It notes! (Reading the marketing information on the back of ARCs can be really interesting. A Timmy Failure iPhone case? Why?)

The Odd Squad: Bully BaitFry, Michael. Bully Bait: The Odd Squad #1
12 Feburary 2013, Hyperion
ARC from Baker and Taylor

Nick is tired of being shoved into his locker by Roy, who relentlessly bullies everyone at Emily Dickinson Middle School, but know that as the shortest 7th grader EVER, he is unlikely to break free of Roy's tyranny. When the school psychologist decides that Nick would be safer if he had a peer group, Nick doesn't protest too much when he gets put on the Safety Patrol with the lone member of said patrol, Warren, as well as Molly, a tall girl whose shoelaces are frequently tied together. With the help of hippie dude custodian, Mr. Dupree, (whose philosophy in warding off bullies is "bring the crazy", a philosophy which I have heard extolled by professionals in the anti-bullying movement!), they decide to bring Roy down by finding the one thing that means the most to him and seizing it. This plot takes some time, but the group perseveres, learning not only about what makes bullies tick, but about how they can each survive middle school.
Strengths: Have to admit here-- I wanted to loathe this intensely.  Bullying, kids being put in lockers, Unrealistic school shenanigans AND a Wimpy Kid-style notebook novel? Everything I hate. And yet, I rather enjoyed this. The drawings reminded me strongly of Bloom County, and I really liked the characters. Nick is willing to control his own destiny, and even Karl, with his strange habit of losing his pants (Really, in 15 years in the middle school, I've only heard of one kid losing his pants, and that was because someone pulled down the kid's gym shorts. Punches were exchanged. It was ugly.), had a certain likeability. The conflict between Roy and Nick was fairly realistically portrayed. So why do I feel like giving this to my library patrons is roughly akin to giving my children cookies to eat for breakfast?
 Weaknesses: No one has ever been put into a locker in my middle school even in one of the oversized ones. And yet this is still a fear that 6th graders have. So no, I don't believe that Nick gets put in lockers that frequently.

If your students are interested in seeing a notebook novel in progress, they should check out David Tiefenthaler's OK is Great at .There are five chapters so far. As a bonus, the main character, O.K., occasionally runs!

Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman have a middle grade notebook style Zits novel entitled Chillax, and I'm hoping to get my hands on an ARC. 

1 comment:

  1. We have snow coming this Sunday. Could be a few inches or as much as 8! We might be in the same position as you come Monday here in Boston!

    Are you tired of snow days? My kids aren't but if we get another one, we seriously get out the very last week of June!

    ps Those books look great for boys! Tweeting and pinning.