Friday, January 08, 2021

Hobie Hanson, Greatest Hero of The Mall

Jamie Gilson was a prolific author in the 1980s and 1990s, and when I sent her a filled up circulation card in about 2007, she graciously sent me an autographed copy of Stink Alley. I don't have any of her titles in the library anymore. Ten years is a long time for even a hardcover book in a middle school library. Either the books are read a lot and fall apart, or they are not read and they start to pong. 

I had Hobie Hanson, You're Weird (#3) and Double Dog Dare (#4) for a long time, and didn't even realize they were in a series. When I found out about the existence of book five, I was super excited, because one of my recurring nightmares is that I am teaching Latin in the Southern Park Mall, where I worked at several stores in high school. 

Finding the book lead me to deeper research, and I was sad to see that Jamie Gilson had died last February. 

Yesterday must have been hard, because I'm a little weepy just thinking about this. In some weird way, some authors seem like my friends, or maybe coworkers. I consult them frequently, and they help me out when I need books for kids. They come and go, I like more than others, but they are part of my daily life. 

One of my daughter's favorite quotes is from Tolkien, concerning Bilbo Baggins. "Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did."

It doesn't matter that we aren't on sacred missions with evil rings, or that we don't defeat dragons or orcs. We all have our personal orcs and dragons, and every single day, going on is the bravest thing we can do.  

Gilson, Jamie. Hobie Hanson, Greatest Hero of The Mall (Hobie Hanson #5)
October 1st 1989 by Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books
Copy borrowed from Wilder Elementary
Hobie is babysitting for his best friend Nick's younger brother. He's not paying a lot of attention-- he's putting together a model of a heart that comes with a powder to make blood, and it's getting messy. His young charge keeps saying that there is a shark in the back yard, and Hobie keeps shrugging him off. It turns out that the river that runs in the back of the houses (Hobie lives next door) has overflowed its banks. Luckily, his friend Molly has stopped by, rescued his cat Fido, and come to save them in her inflatable giraffe pool floatie. Eventually, everyone meets up at the local flood shelter, and the kids find out that their school has been badly damaged. Instead, children will be going to school in the local mall. Unlike my nightmare of teaching in one, there won't be classes on the concourse, but a now defunct department store has donated the building. Where once the children shopped for shoes, they will now be having math, and they can go get a hot pretzel for lunch. Will chaos reign, or will Hobie and his friends get back to work. 
Strengths: Coming in at 149 pages, this book could be wildly successful in my library-- if there were an updated version. The book is humorous, but addresses core concerns of middle grade readers and showcases how important friendships are at this age. Having occasional page decorations is something I always love (Think Beth and Joe Krush or Charles Geer). Hobie is well meaning and enthusiastic, but often misguided, which makes him the perfect middle grade character. 
Weaknesses: Obviously, this is rather dated, and I did not find the illustrations attractive. 
What I really think: If you have the whole series, keep them. I think they would have an audience in elementary school. If you don't have the whole series and are sort on shelf space, this is a series that could move on. 
 Ms. Yingling

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