Friday, July 12, 2013

Twerp, by Mark Goldblatt

The back cover of Twerp simply says, "a good book about a bad deed," and that couldn't be more true.

Julian Twerski, Twerp's main character, is a sixth grader at PS 23 in Queens, NY in the late 1960s. Julian, or "Twerp", as some of his friends call him, finds himself in trouble during the school year, ultimately landing himself suspended. Upon his return to school, his English teacher, Mr. Selkirk, gives him a writing assignment: he must write about the "bad deed" that got him suspended in order to make up for the assignments missed during his time out. The result of Julian's writing assignment is this book - it chronicles his adventures (or mis-adventures) with his crew of friends, mainly in their hangout of choice, a field they have nicknamed "Ponzini".

I loved this novel for several reasons. First, it explored things that real-life boys STILL do. For example, Julian and his friend Lonnie mess throw rocks at pigeons for fun, not really expecting to hurt one. But, inevitably, they do, and have to figure out how they're going to deal with it. Also, Julian's writing assignment was to write about the act that got him suspended, but he avoids this for a really long time. This hooked me in and made me want to keep reading. He didn't actually address the cause of his suspension until the very end of the book. I loved this not only because it propelled me to keep reading, but also because I think it's a really great lesson for kids about how we make sense of things through our writing.

I can't wait to recommend Twerp to my students in the fall. I think it's the kind of realistic fiction that kids really connect with.

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