Sunday, September 4, 2011

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick (NY: Scholastic, 2004).

Steven is a typical, and talented, eighth grader in NYC.  He cooperates with his teachers--even writing on the assigned topics in his journal, most of the time. He plays the drums for the All City Jazz Band, has an hopeless crush on the cutest girl in his grade, and wishes his little brother Jeffrey could be less annoying.  Funny how one day can change everything.  It starts out so ordinary--making "moatmeal" for Jeffrey--but ends with Jeffrey being diagnosed with leukemia and having to go for more tests, and then treatment, in Philadelphia.  Suddenly Steven's world is shattered.  At first he doesn't tell anyone.  He stops doing his homework and writes about anything he wants to in his journal.  And he practices his drums all the time because that helps him forget, just for a little while, what's happening to his family.  His dad won't even talk to him.  His mom is distraught and focused on Jeffrey's treatments.  As his world unravels, Steven has to learn how to deal with the seemingly incomprehensible situation.

If Steven weren't such a humorous character, this novel probably would have been a total downer.  As it was, I cried. A lot.  But there are plenty of comic interludes, and Steven uses humor as a coping mechanism to great effect for everyone in his family, especially Jeffrey. And Jeffrey is an adorable character--brave and goofy despite his ordeal. Overall, this is an excellent quick read for middle grades.  Highly recommended for ages 9 & up.

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