Book: Dodger for President
Author: Jordan Sonnenblick
Age Range: 8-12
I enjoyed Jordan Sonnenblick's first Dodger book, Dodger and Me (and, for that matter, his Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie and Notes from the Midnight Driver, both for older readers). I've said it before, and I'll say it again here: Sonnenblick has a gift for writing authentic, humorous, juvenile male voices. I think it's quite safe to say (and I mean this in the best possible way) that he hasn't left his inner boy behind. Anyway, his latest title is Dodger for President, continuing the adventures of fifth-grader Willie Ryan and his two best friends: a geeky British girl named Lizzie and an oversized, invisible (to most) blue chimp named Dodger.
In Dodger for President, Willie finds himself a reluctant candidate for class president, with Lizzie as his running mate, and Dodger as a less-than-conventional campaign manager. They're two self-confessed dorks running against a popular kid who has been class president since kindergarten and a thug sidekick who people are afraid not to vote for. The situation seems hopeless. Dodger, however, is an irrepressible optimist, one not afraid to throw a bit of magic into the mix. Add a magic carpet and a Sherlock Holmes-obsessed younger sister, and hilarious hijinks ensue.
I really like these books. I think that they fill a niche for humorous, boy-friendly titles for less advanced readers. The books offer a nice combination of over-the-top magic and realistic boy-humor (a photo contrived to look like Willie is picking his nose, etc.), in a readily accessible package. The Dodger books are perfect next books to give to kids who like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and are ready to give less-graphical books a try. Lizzie is a strong enough character that I think girls will enjoy the books, too.
Dodger for President lives up to the promise of the first book. The growing friendship between Willie and Lizzie is nice to see. And Willie's younger sister, Amy, steals pretty much every scene that she's in (especially when she's kicking the shins of Willie's opponent). There are lessons in the book about doing the right thing and trying new things, but these are coated so thoroughly with humor that they go down quite smoothly. What I think will make kids love the book, though, is the laugh-out-loud funny voices of both Willie and Dodger. Here are a few examples.
"Dodger: Like, there was this science quiz. It was totally hard. There were all these, um, questions and stuff. And you had to fill in these little bubbles with letters next to them, but I really didn't see what the letters had to do with the questions. The question would be all What type of rock is made when a volcano erupts and then the lava cools? But the answers would be all like A. Or B. Or C. Or even D. Dude, I don't know a whole lot about rocks, but even a chimp knows that there's no kind of rock called "A Rock." 'Cause that would be just completely confusing." (Chapter 1)
"Lizzie practically turned green, so I knew that, whatever was going on, hearing about it wasn't going to send me to my happy place. As she gathered herself to speak, I noticed that Dodger was trying to crawl under my bed to hide. I guess he hadn't ever noticed how much stuff I shove down there so my mom will think my room is clean." (Chapter 2)
"Little sisters. You never know whether to hate them or give them a medal." (Chapter 6)
"His fur was sticking up in all directions. If you've never seen a chimpanzee with bed-head, it's really quite a spectacle." (Chapter 8)
Read those passages aloud to your eight-year-old son. I'll bet he wants to hear more. I do recommend reading Dodger and Me first, however, since that book makes it clear how Dodger, Willie, and Lizzie came to be companions. I'll be keeping an eye out for future books in the series. And I'm pretty sure that there will be more, because Dodger for President leaves a couple of major plot points unresolved. [Fair warning, if your kids don't like unresolved endings - you might want to wait until more books in the series are available.] Recommended summer reading for the elementary school crowd.
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: June 23, 2009
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher. Quotes are from the advance copy, and should be checked against the final book.
Other Blog Reviews: Not a review, exactly, but this book is profiled on the Eva Perry Mock Newbery blog, with very positive feedback in the comments. I was also thrilled to learn from Jordan's blog that he has a sequel to Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie coming out in February. That's one I'll be watching for.
Author Interviews: Little Willow, Writing and Ruminating, and here (all three from the 2007 Summer Blog Blast Tour).
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.