Sunday, October 09, 2022

Butt Sandwich and Tree

King, Wesley. Butt Sandwich and Tree
August 23rd 2022 by Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Cedar, who is 8th grade, is a great basketball player who also is trying for fame on TikTok with a series of videos he is making with his friend Mo. Green, who is in 6th grade, has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, and has some coping strategies thanks to his doctor. His mother, who is a vet, and father, who is a jockish software engineer given to wearing too much spandex, are concerned that he is not dealing with his challenges well enough, and have made an appointment for him to meet with a specialist. To broaden his horizons, Green tries out for the middle school basketball team. Thanks to his brother's prowess on the court, the coach is lenient about Green's less than stellar skills, and lets him go on to the next round of tryouts based on his "DNA" and his promise to improve. When things go badly on the court with another player, and the chain with the wedding ring of the coach's deceased wife goes missing from his desk, Green's place on the team is in jeopardy. The Coach accuses Green outright of taking the ring, but Cedar believes his brother didn't take it. Working with the school custodian, Maggie, the two start to investigate even though their parents tell them not to. Told from alternating viewpoints, we get a clear picture of how both brothers feel. We see Cedar struggle with doing well on his schoolwork, and get his insight on how difficult life is when his phone is taken away from him. We also get Green's perspective on how he navigates dealing with classmates like Klieba, how sixth grade is different from previous school years, when he had an aide who helped him understand interacting with teachers and students, and how he feels about going to another doctor to consult about his Aspberger's. Will the brothers be able to work together to solve the mystery and get Green on the basketball team?
Strengths: This was a great story about brothers who get along well and really like each other, despite their differences. As adults, I think we forget how important siblings are when we are younger. Cedar is sometimes a bit irritated by Green, but the two genuinely like each other, and look out for each other. Green wants to be more like his brother, so tries out for the basketball team even though it isn't his favorite activity. King's experience with a brother on the autism spectrum makes the details of Green's daily existence very realistic. The mystery is well developed, and is a good framework to show both boys' strengths and weaknesses, as well as their interactions with the school community and their parents. I absolutely LOVED that Cedar lost his phone privileges! That is a huge deal for middle school students who have a phone, and his struggles with social media withdrawal will speak to a lot of readers. The fact that he wasn't overly bitter about this punishment made it even better. There is a particularly sweet rendering of the mother's father, Opa, whom I hope is based on King's own grandfather. Of course, the inclusion of basketball makes every middle grade book better, and quite honestly, everyone should purchase this on the basis of the title alone. 
Weaknesses: Since this is based on King's experiences growing up with a brother on the autism spectrum, I wish this had been framed as a historical novel. In 2013, Asperger's was included in the overarching term "Autism Spectrum Disorder", so my students have probablly never heard of Aspberger's. I did appreciate that this change in labeling and the reasons for it were mentioned in the book, but since TikTok videos, cell phones, and Crocs are all mentioned frequently, the terminology is at odds with the very 2022 setting. A historical look at the treatment of students with ASD would have been enlightening. 
What I really think: Yeah. I'm going to have to say "butt" a lot when recommending this, aren't I? King has written such a wide variety of books, and it was fun to see him turn his craft to a fictionalized account of his own life. Highly recommended.
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:41 PM EDT

    A good historical look is from Megan McLaughlin and her book about human rights - especially as she writes from 1975-90 and 1990-present.

    I would send this in as supplementary material.

    Crocs seem to be from the early-mid 2000s.

    [and I remember when TikTok was called]!

    Adelaide Dupont