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Book Review: Twerp

TwerpAuthor: Mafk Goldblatt

Publisher: Random House, May 28, 2013

Genre: Middle-Grade Fiction

Source: The publisher

My Rating: A

My first job out of college was teaching a fifth-grade class that was two-thirds boys. Reading was one of my challenges. No one read at grade level. All my Reading Groups were reading what they called “baby books.” And they were right.

One of my strategies to make reading “cool” (It was the mid-60s) was to find boy-oriented, fun books that showcased activities my students could identify with. Every day, after lunch I read chapters of those books to them. Unfortunately, there were very few of those books back in those days. I wish I’d had a copy of this book, Twerp by Mark Goldblatt. My classes would have loved it.

Twerp is the nickname for Julian Twerski, a sixth-grader who is all-boy in the old-fashioned sense of the term. He hangs out with his friends at a vacant lot or the playground and does all sorts of boyish things. Things like emptying the powder out of their leftover firecrackers and cherry-bombs and then accidently setting it on fire, singeing the eyebrows off one of the boys. Or racing, by foot, cars along a city street. Or composing a love letter on behalf of one of the boys that backfires,

The story is strong because it’s told by Twerp. His teacher gave him an option to write these stories instead of the regular English assignment – a report on Shakespeare. What the teacher really wants Twerp to write about is something terrible that happened over the winter break. Twerp was suspended from school for a week because of the incident. But it’s the last thing Twerp wants to think or write about.

I love Twerp. He made me both laugh and cry. He sounds just like a normal, feisty sixth-grade boy. Just for old-times sake I read aloud parts of the book and imagined the faces of my former students. It worked. If you know a middle-grader, get this book for them. You could read it too. Best o all, read it together.

About the author (from the publisher):

Mark Goldblatt is a lot like Julian Twerski, only not as interesting. He’s a widely published columnist, a novelist, and a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Twerp is his first book for younger readers. He lives in New York City.

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