January 2013

Growing up and getting all turned around

By Jerry Spinelli
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Hokey Pokey is the perfect kids’ world. There are many places to play, continuous cartoons on a big screen, wild herds of bicycles, even places for tantrums and snuggling. Only kids live here, from the time they first shed their diapers until they become Big Kids. But what happens then?

Newbery Award-winning author Jerry Spinelli explores this question with his usual grace and creativity in Hokey Pokey. His main character Jack wakes up one morning to find that his great stallion bike Scramjet has been stolen and nothing is as he expects. When he discovers that his tattoo, the one every newbie gets upon entering Hokey Pokey, is starting to fade, he knows for sure that his life is about to change forever.

It’s hard to talk about how wonderful this book is without giving away its secrets. Adults will know early on what Jack is experiencing, and tweens might guess but not fully understand. Pre-teens will identify with Jack—and his friends the Amigos and his nemesis Jubilee—in a way that will startle them. The ending is a satisfying “click” of the last puzzle piece. If readers are put off by the childish-seeming premise at the beginning, encourage them to keep going. Hokey Pokey is not just a place, but also a journey they will recognize.

This is the kind of remarkable, unique and perfect coming-of-age story that makes the reader think, “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?” And all of a sudden, there is no better way to describe childhood—or its end.

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Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey

By Jerry Spinelli
Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN 9780375831980

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