Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Fat Boy Chronicles, by Diane Lang and Michael Buchanan

Jimmy Winterpock always gets teased by the football team for being fat.  He’s not just a little overweight, mind you, but just plain fat.  Thanks to a writing journal kept for his English class, we get to follow along over the course of the school year as Jimmy works to slim down with healthy lifestyle changes.  Jimmy is thrilled to see the changes in his body, and along the way he discovers that nearly all of his school friends have some kind of personal problems as well.

Even though this book seems to be focused on Jimmy’s personal struggle with obesity, I found myself even more sympathetic to the other kids at his school.  Adolescence is hard enough by itself, but you’re really creating a recipe for disaster when you add in other risks like abusive parents, depression or learning disabilities.  Although this book is clearly categorized as “young adult” due to its mature themes, I’d actually recommend it for parents as well.  Jimmy’s journal provides a window into the mind of a teenager, and the issues they could be silently struggling with.   

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Tangerine, by Edward Bloor

Paul Fisher is a visually impaired young man best known for his unique goggles.  Despite his impairment, he’s a natural athlete and a great soccer goalie.  When he moves to Florida and a sinkhole destroys half of his new school, the students are given the choice of busing to the town’s other public school, Tangerine Middle.  Paul sees this as his chance to finally make the starting team, so he starts all over again as the new kid…twice in the same year!

Even though Tangerine Middle seemed like a rough place, this book didn’t contain any graphic descriptions of violence so I’d say it’s fine for middle grade readers.  In fact, I’d think that it would be a very helpful book for anyone who’s feeling anxious about an upcoming change in schools.  After everything that Paul goes through, the challenge of starting all over would seem small in comparison!

One of the best things about this book is the way that Mr. Bloor peels back the shiny veneer of the state of Florida, a place most of us associate with theme parks and holiday destinations, to show that there are real people with real problems here as well.  “Tangerine” was the first book I’ve read from this talented writer, but it will definitely not be my last.