Friday, April 26, 2013

Guy Friday-- Jeremy is in a Notebook Novel

Zits: ChillaxScott, Jerry and Borgman, Jim. Zits: Chillax
1 May 2013, HarperTeen

Jeremy and his friend Hector have gotten tickets for the Gingivitis rock concert from their friend Tim, but there are two problems standing in their way of complete enjoyment-- they are not sure that their parents will let them go, and Tim is selling the tickets only because he has to donate bone marrow to his mother because she has cancer.  Being the sensitive and supportive friends they are, Jeremy and Hector try to find a way to support Tim. Pierce shaves his head in solidarity (so does his mother!), and the girls off to spend the day with Tim in the hospital. Jeremy and Hector? They decide that going to the Gingivitis concert is the best way to go-- they'll bring him an awesome leather jacket as a souvenir. The concert is everything they could hope for, except that the jacket is $750. Thanks to the help of their history teacher, who happens to work concessions, they manage to get backstage. Can they bring Tim something from the concert, and will that be enough to help him get through his ordeal?
Strengths: I adore this comic strip, since it is so much like Surly Teen Boy! The parents are just goofy enough, and appear an appropriate amount-- always to squash Jeremy or to make him get up before noon! He has a nice group of friends, and the mother's cancer is not maudlin, but handled in a realistic way. The boys van appears often (love how they start it with a retainer!), which will delight my boys, for whom cars are still quite abstract.
Weaknesses: Oddly wordy. Scott was probably so relieved to be able to tell his story in more than four short panels that he went crazy. This is the most YA notebook novel I've seen because of the wordiness-- aside from the drinking and smoking of the rock band, it's all middle school appropriate, although perhaps a tad too interested in how Sarah dances!

Young, Karen Romano. Stuck in the Middle (of Middle School): A Novel in Doodles. (Sequel to Doodlebug)
19 March 2013, Feiwel and Friends

I really wanted to like this one. Notebook Novel, biracial main character, fun story. However, this was torpedoed by horrible formatting. It shouldn't surprise anyone that fans of the Wimpy Kid books and this style in general are not the strongest readers. They often have vision or processing issues that make text difficult for them, which is why they like the pictures and the larger size font that these books generally have. When I introduce new notebook novels to these readers, they are not sold until I open the book and show them pages. These pages are crowded with information, and the hand drawn font is very small. Sidebars interrupt the linear flow, and there is very little white space. Since this is a very slim volume, many of these problems could have been eliminated by increasing the size of the words and white space, and making the book longer. Marissa Moss's Amelia books look very similar to these, and are very hard to get students to check out. Rachel Renee Russell's Dork Diaries keep the linear flow and the larger font and are wildly popular. Think I will have to pass on this one, which is a shame.


  1. Yikes! Glad Picky Reader is ok. Ow, ow, ow!

  2. I love the Lego figure! And I'm glad Picky Reader is okay. Not fun.

  3. Hope she's feeling much better.

  4. Anonymous8:56 AM EDT

    I love Zits (the comics ;) )! :D

  5. I admire Picky Reader (who should now be renamed Plucky Reader) for having the strength of character to be up for the Legally Blonde performance. But who on earth stuck the dangerous board up there?!

    On another note, I get that kids love these "notebook novels." I find them overstimulating. I hope they don't corner the market, and that is all we'll have, along with graphic novels of Shakespeare and Moby Dick, in another decade or two. The visual imagination--making character's out of WORDS in one's mind's eye--is shrinking rapidly.