Friday, September 07, 2018

The Right Hook of Devin Velma, Lord of the Fleas

36952598Burt, Jake. The Right Hook of Devin Velma. 
September 4th 2018 by Feiwel & Friends
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

When Devin's father lands in the hospital after a heart attack, he is concerned that the family won't be able to pay the medical bills. He hopes that by filming an impossible trick on the monkey bars, the , Double-Barreled Monkey Bar Backflip of Doom it will go viral and bring attention to him so that he can raise the money. His best friend Addison is supposed to help him film and spread the word, but Addison has a lot of anxiety and is prone to "freezing", so doesn't get the video even though Devin does manage the trick. Addison's family struggles as well, but are close with Devin's family. Devin comes up with the great idea to get on the "kiss cam" at a professional basketball game behind a celebrity couple, and since his sister is on their cheer squad, manages to get into the game and the two even get on the camera-- but Devin slips and Addison is caught on tape saving his friend from falling over the railing. Addison is the one the rockets to fame, which irritates Devin. It takes a lot of understanding, and some help from Addison's parents, for him to understand the dynamics of his relationship with Devin, Devin's fears for his father, and a way to help his friends family deal with the father's medical issues.
Strengths: I've never understood why the default in middle grade literature is for parents to be dead or uninvolved. Sure, it gives characters a lot of freedom to have adventures, but I wish that more realistic stories had more constructive parental involvement. This even had Devin's great-great-grandmother, and the math supporting having all of those generations! Both families had some job insecurity, and Addison lived in an apartment with some difficulties for which HE felt somewhat responsible. There are more and more books showing realistic challenges faced by children who might be concerned about growing out of shoes from the dollar store, about having food on the table, and about the job situations of their parents. This book is able to balance those worries with the more common middle school worries about friends, and imbues it all with a good sense of humor and a general air of hopefulness in the face of adversity. This makes it a good book for children who do face difficult situations, because it shows them some coping strategies, and children who don't have to face these situations will hopefully learn that "everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" and will encourage them to be empathetic.
Weaknesses: Can you really make money going viral on YouTube? I think that is one of those things that 12-year-olds believe more than I do.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and so pleased to see this one. It's a stand alone, has a great cover, and is Sonnenblick-esque in that it covers serious issues in a humorous way.

Pilkey, Dav. Lord of the Fleas (Dog Man #5)
Published August 28th 2018 by Graphix
Copy provided by the Publisher

Dog Man and Li'l Petey are back, making hydraulic roof ramps for their dog house with robot 80-HD and having other fun adventures, but when a representative of Kitty Protective Services shows up and demands that Li'l Petey go to school, Dog Man doesn't feel he can stop it. Of course, it's not really the KPS, it's Petey, coming to steal his clone. Petey tells Li'l Petey about his harrowing childhood experiences playing miniature golf  that quickly turned into a Lord of the Flies type situation, leaving him with bitter resentment against his fellow scouts, Pinky, Crunky and Bub. Of course, these nemeses also feel wronged by Petey, and plan their own revenge involving a giant robobrontasaurus. Complications ensue, and the cast of characters all get involved in helping Petey defeat this new evil. With the help of his clone, Petey starts to see the error of his ways, but still must pay for the crimes he has already committed.

While Li'l Petey's paraphrasing of Kent M. Keith's poem Anyway to help Petey realize he still needs to be a good person, as well as the inclusion of a short story about why reading to children will endear Dog Man to adults, any Pilkey fan knows that the real draw of a Dog Man book is the full color comic book style layouts, the flip-o-ramas, and the nonstop, goofy adventure. This installment certainly has plenty of that, as well as chase scenes with unlikely robocreatures bent on world domination and destruction.

Petey's nemeses (an alligator, pig, and gorilla) are a fun new addition, and the reworking of Golding's classic is age appropriate. Not sure if it will encourage the target demographic to pick up the book, even if Harold states he finally finished it. The next book in the series is Brawl of the Wild, (due out December 24th 2018), so Pilkey does seem to have an eye towards bringing more attention to classic literature via his half dog, half policeman protagonist.

Elementary school age readers will be thrilled to read this new installment from Pilkey, and even middle school students remain fans of his mix of crime fighting, hilarious pictures, and Dog Man being distracted by any form of squirrel.

While I personally liked Captain Underpants a lot, I'm not a Dog Man fan. There's something about the whole dog-head-on-a-human-body that I find deeply disturbing, and the foray into Deep Philosophical Meaning about the essence of human behavior seemed overly deliberate. Still, this book will fall apart from use within two years.
Ms. Yingling

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