Sunday, November 16, 2008

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie

1. Bibliography:

Sonnenblick, Jordan. 2004. Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie. New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN: 0439755190.

2. Summary:
Steven is a normal middle school boy. He has a crush on a girl, the most popular girl on campus, loves playing the drums, and gets along with his parents. When his brother, Jeffrey, gets leukemia, Steven's world changes. What was once a carefree life is now replaced by a life of isolation from his family as they concentrate on Jeffrey's illness, failing grades in school, and a fear for his brother's life.

3. Analysis:
Sonnenblick's style is one of the most refreshing voices in young adult literature. Because he taught middle school, Sonnenblick speaks the language of middle school kids. The characters are real. He captures the sarcastic and quick wit that is rampant in young adults, and that wit and fresh voice make this book a fantastic read for both young adults and adults. Steven says things like, "You have to love it when the doctor lays all this horrific stuff on you and then tells you not to worry. It's like saying, 'Here's thirty-seven pounds of assorted chocolates. Try not to think about food though.' Or,'Look! There's Renee Albert in a bikini. But please try to keep your mind on algebraic functions.'" This wit makes the book that deals with a tough topic (cancer) an enjoyable and fun read.
Young adults often think they are invincible, but sadly, many kids are diagnosed with cancer and leukemia specifically each year. This book touches on the realities of cancer: long hospital stays, missed vacations, and even death. Steven starts the book out as a carefree, normal kid. He ends the book at his 8th grade graduation as a more reflective kid, one who thinks of how Samantha died and the lessons she taught him.
The book stays realistic with Steven's grades plummeting as he feels distant from his classmates and ignored at home. Sonnenblick accurately describes the teachers' responses and Steven's disgust because school should be a place where things stay the same. Sonnenblick also adds to the realism by having Steven make "deals" with God to let Jeffrey live like "Here goes a good offer, Lord. If that bird on that tree over there flies away within ten seconds, Jeffrey is cured." While it has a funny tone, it's a realistic reaction for a middle school kid.
While the book remains funny, it focuses in on a serious topic of cancer and its affect on not only the sick patient but also the family. Steven learns that it is okay not be the center of attention and how families stick together during tough times and how parents do love both kids even if they have to focus on one more for a while. And finally as he falls for Annette, his best friend, he learns that sometimes the best friend and love can be the one right before your eyes.

4. Reviews:
TeenReads: Readers who have never gone through what Steven is going through will have a newfound understanding of what it is like to --- very literally --- battle someone else's cancer. Those who have will be grateful to Sonnenblick for getting it so right. --- Reviewed by Jennifer Krieger (Accessed November 16, 2008)
Booklist: The recriminations, cares, and nightmares that come with a cancer diagnosis are all here, underscored by vomiting, white blood cell counts, and chemotherapy ports. Yet, this is also about regrouping, solidarity, love, and hope. Most important for a middle-grade audience, Sonneblick shows that even in the midst of tragedy, life goes on, love can flower, and the one thing you can always change is yourself. Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association. (Accessed November 16, 2008)

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