VOYA - Angela Carstensen
The summer he turns thirteen, Josh Greenwood is on his way to Chicago to stay with his father. He usually lives with his mother in Boston, but she has to go to Florida to care for his Grandmother who is recovering from a hospital stay. Josh would much rather be in Florida, especially when his father picks him up (late) at the airport with new, big black hair and sideburns. Josh is mortified. It turns out that his father lost his job and has decided to pursue work as an Elvis impersonator. With myriad priceless asides, Josh takes readers through his father's endless rehearsing and attempts to recruit his help with performances (rebuffed), opinions of his father's new girlfriend and daughter who just happens to go to Josh's school-so much for keeping his father's new "hobby" a secret-and his desperation to hold on to a semblance of the popularity he enjoyed in Boston. When his father is hired to perform for a school event, Josh goes too far trying to prevent it. Only then does he realize how much he was starting to enjoy his new life. This affecting story of a typical, clever middle-school boy dealing with divorce and the new families that sometimes replace the old is also a very funny tale told by a terrifically engaging young narrator. Although some issues are serious, it is one of those rare, humor-filled books that will appeal to middle school readers regardless of gender. Reviewer: Angela Carstensen
Children's Literature - Julie Lodermeier
When Josh's normal dad changes careers to become an Elvis impersonator, you can't help but laugh out loud. Readers will squirm with agony due to Josh's dad's new sideburns and his "gigs" around town while Josh is just trying to blend in at a new school. Josh is forced to take action when his dad is asked to perform, rhinestone jumpsuit and all, at his new school's ‘50s concert. It is a funny, sometimes painful read as Josh tries to cope and is rewarding in the end. This is a hilarious yet affecting story of a clever, middle-school boy dealing with divorce. Other interesting characters in this book are the bizarre but possible love interest Ivory, the dog-collar-wearing Digger and even an old lady neighbor, Gladys. All of them want to befriend Josh as he desperately tries not to draw attention to himself. The incredibly engaging young narrator, Josh, will appeal to middle school readers regardless of gender. Reviewer: Julie Lodermeier
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8- Josh Greenwood, 13, lives with his mom in Boston, but he is shipped off to his dad in Chicago when she has to go to Florida to care for her mother. Once there, he discovers that his shoe-salesman father has lost his job and is now an Elvis impersonator. Dad's new girlfriend owns a vintage clothing shop and her daughter, Ivory, wears outfits that are wacky mismatched blasts from the past, and she has a boyfriend who wears a dog collar. "Hard" does not even begin to cover Josh's feelings about his new life. Of course, in true middle schooler fashion, he is unable to see anything except how this situation affects him. His potential for humiliation and embarrassment are central to his character and lead to an explosive division between him and his father. Through a wonderful and believable process of discovery orchestrated partially by Ivory and her mom, father and son come to understand one another. Pearsall has given Josh an authentic voice, and his first-person narrative is engaging throughout.-Genevieve Gallagher, Murray Elementary School, Charlottesville, VA
Since his parents split when he was five, 13-year-old Josh Greenwood is accustomed to dividing his time between Boston with his orderly mother and Chicago vacations with his forgetful, shoe-salesman father. When Josh's grandmother in Florida takes a fall, however, Josh's mother sends him to Chicago where he'll have to start his seventh-grade year at a new school. Josh arrives to find the shoe store where his dad worked has closed, and his dad looking...Elvis-y. Josh can handle his dad's possible girlfriend Viv and her over-friendly and rather strange daughter Ivory, but he can't take everyone knowing about his dad's new "job." School starts, and to Josh's horror Viv signs his dad up to impersonate Elvis at his school's '50s theme day. Pearsall's fourth is funny, realistic and slightly sarcastic, and the eventual changes in Josh's relationship with his dad are both believable and well-handled. Boys especially will identify with Josh's struggle to escape the stigma of an embarrassing parent. (Fiction. 9-13)
Read an Excerpt
Looking back, I would say everything in my life changed the summer I turned thirteen and my dad turned into Elvis.
I’d heard people say thirteen was an unlucky number, and from the very beginning, that seemed to be true. I’d been thirteen for less than twenty-four hours when the phone call came from Florida about my grandma taking a fall on the steps of the Shadyside Episcopal Church and breaking her hip. That same day, somebody swiped my bike from the rack at the city pool because–yes–I’d stupidly left it unlocked. And then my mom decided to ship me off to Chicago for four months so she could rush to Florida to take care of my grandma.
Before arriving in Illinois in August, I didn’t know anything about my dad being Elvis. Well, that’s not quite true. I knew there were people who pretended to be Elvis. You know–sideburns, sunglasses, twisting hips, jiggly legs, and all. But I never thought my own dad would become one of them.
Neither did my mother, or she probably wouldn’t have put me on that plane. I’d have gone to Shadyside Villas instead, where I could have stayed with her and a lot of nice old people while we waited for Grandma’s hip to recover.
But my dad, in his usual style, didn’t mention a word about Elvis when my mom called him. “Great. No problem. Sure. Josh can stay with me,” he must have told her on the phone–while I stood on the other side of the kitchen doorway crossing my fingers behind my back, whispering, “No, say no” under my breath. As they were talking, I could hear my mom clattering a spoon around and around a mixing bowl, loudly making something for dinner. She never spoke to my father without sounding extremely busy.
“So you don’t mind keeping Josh?” I heard her say.
“Until Shirley’s better? The doctors told me it could be a few months. He’ll have to be enrolled in school. Are you sure this isn’t going to be a problem?”
Keep Josh. That phrase again. Like I was somebody’s pet guinea pig or prize Chihuahua getting passed back and forth. Keep Josh. Take Josh. Pick up Josh.
Note to my parents: Why not ask Josh what he would like to do?
But after eight years of being shipped between two houses almost a thousand miles apart, I knew it was pretty much useless to say anything. I was the SHARED KID and both of my parents liked me better if I seemed okay with their arrangement. So that’s why I ended up telling my mom I was fine with living in Chicago for a while and staying with my dad and even going to a different school. Although I wasn’t really fine with any of those things. Especially not the new school.