Thursday, December 27, 2018

Dodger Boy

Ellis, Sarah. Dodger Boy
September 1st 2018 by Groundwood Books
JLG Selection

Charlotte and Dawn (who prefers to be called that rather than her Polish name) are fast friends who have adopted an UnTeen pact to make sure that they don't succumb to the social pressures of 1970 Vancouver. Dawn's family is more conventional, so they might expect her to marry young so she can have a matching dinette set, but Charlotte's family runs a flower shop and don't go for a lot of interior decorating. The girls embrace some parts of the modern culture and are a bit fascinated by "hippies", even hitting the thrift store, scoring a Laura Ashley dress and belled skirt and tie-dying them in order to attend a Human Be-In at a local park. There, they meet American draft dodger Tom Ed, from Texas, and he ends up staying with Charlotte's family, even though they are Quakers and Tom Ed is not avoiding the war because of pacifism. At the girls' school, they have a forward thinking teacher who is in her last year, and is allowing the students to read anything they want, since she will be retiring. On girl, who is reading the Bible, becomes upset by Catcher in the Rye, and her mother tries to get the book banned and the teacher fired. One night, Charlotte finds Tom Ed and her brother James kissing, and the next thing they know, Tom Ed has moved out to go join a commune. Charlotte examines her feelings about the situation and is not upset, her teacher remains employed, and she and Dawn continue on their junior high experience during an interesting and pivotal time of history.
Strengths: There are lots of good details about daily life in the 1970s, and the topic of draft dodgers is one for which I really needed a book! It's a nice length, and moves along quickly. Good feeling of the time in both details and larger issues.
Weaknesses: The cover is not a good one. Even a similar photo would have been better. While the book challenge scenes and Tom Ed's sexual orientation are vaguely interesting and well done, I wish more description of the Vietnam conflict and its effect on people like Tom Ed would have been given. There would have been more than enough background information to round out a story without the other issues.
What I really think: This will be perfect for the Decades Unit the 7th grade does. It's not perfectly written (I bought it without reading it because I was thinking it was by Deborah Ellis, author of The Breadwinner), but it's the only one I've ever seen about draft dodgers living in Canada, although there is Kurlansky's Battle Fatigue that covers a young man before he heads to Canada.
Ms. Yingling

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