Friday, December 28, 2012

Dodger and Me, by Jordan Sonnenblick

Title:  Dodger and Me
Author:  Jordan Sonnenblick
Publisher:  Feiwel & Friends
Year:  2008
Pages: 176
Genre:  Fantasy
Themes:  Friendship, Family, Overcoming Fear
Age Range:  3rd-6th Grade

Willie Ryan was not exactly the happiest fifth grader in the world.  He had an overprotective mother, an annoying little sister, his best (and only) friend moved away, the weird English girl from his class wouldn't leave him alone, and he hadn't made a hit for his baseball team all season.  It seemed like nothing he did worked out the way he hoped.  After yet another humiliating performance on the baseball field, Willie decides to take a shortcut through the woods to avoid seeing the other kids.  In a clearing he spies a McDonalds bag someone left on the ground.  When he goes and picks it up, he discovers that it is really a magic lamp in disguise, and when he runs his hand over it out pops...a large blue chimpanzee named Dodger.  Not exactly what you were expecting, huh?  Thus begins an unexpected romp through the familiar three-wishes territory, as Dodger tries to help Willie solve his problems-mostly by seemingly making things worse!

This is a cute book, though there is nothing hugely original about it.  Despite the "genie" being a large blue ape, the plot is very familiar-lonely, awkward boy gets magical intervention to solve his problems, which goes awry and forces him to realize that he can solve his own problems and/or learn to appreciate the things he thought he wanted to change about people.  Of course, if you are a third grader who has never read or seen any of the other variations on this theme (or the movie Aladdin), then it would feel original to you.

What makes this book really enjoyable, even if the plot is predictable for the more mature reader, is the way that the character of Dodger is written.  He is funny and sweet and crazy and slightly sarcastic, and there are a few things he says that probably only a mature reader would get.  I always appreciate it when authors throw the parents and teachers who also read their books a little bone-sort of like the "wink, wink" moments on Sesame Street that are meant for the parents who are watching with their kids.  Really, all of the characters are pretty well-written, and I think that a lot of students would feel a connection with Willie and his overprotective mother and insecurity.

No comments:

Post a Comment