Monday, July 16, 2012
IT'S MONDAY, WHAT ARE YOU READING
At the library last week, I picked up Jerry Spinelli's latest offering, JAKE AND LILY. Jake and Lily are ten-year-old twins. They have always been super, super close-- they share a bedroom, finish each other's sentences, and even share each other's thoughts, a process they call goombla. Unfortunately, things change. The twins are growing up, and their parents think it's time for them to have their own bedrooms. Then Bump Stubbins, the neighborhood tough guy, forms the Death Rays, a "gang" (as a teacher in an urban setting, where actual gangs have spent the summer shooting at each other, I was not totally comfortable with this choice of words) and invites Jake to join.
The Death Rays spend much of their time riding around town looking for "goobers," people who are a little different, or quirky. Bump is the head "goober scouter, and one day he comes upon Ernie, a kid that has just moved to town, building a clubhouse in his backyard. Bump immediately decides that Ernie is a "super goober," who should become the Death Rays main source of entertainment. Every day, they ride their bikes to his house and spend hours watching him build his club house, and making fun of him. Ernie, as a "super goober," seems completely unaware that the boys don't want to be his friends or join his club. As a reader, I had lots and lots going on-- huge discomfort with the way the Death Rays were treating Ernie, and almost a disbelief that Jake, who seemed like a really nice kid was part of something so mean. And in the meantime, Lily is still trying to figure out the separation thing, and seeking comfort and advice her grandfather, Poppy.
There are lots of layers of complexity in this book. First, the story is told in alternating voices- Lily is the narrator for one chapter, then Jake takes a turn. Not that difficult, but kids who are less experienced readers might need a little support getting started. Secondly, the book is divided into two parts. During the first part of the novel Spinelli develops one theme- kind of a coming of age, growing up, growing apart theme. The second part of the book is more about Jake and the Death Rays, and moves into a third, "how is it ok to treat other people" theme. Spinelli pulls it all together at the end, but it might be a lot for some readers to hang onto. On the other hand, it might be a really interesting read aloud, especially early in the year when you are trying to establish classroom community and norms. I even wonder about pairing it with WONDER. The books present two very different takes on kindness, but might provoke some really interesting conversations. Hmmm…