Paulsen's perceptive, funny look at the life of 12-year-old Duane is at once indisputably real and drolly exaggerated. The author gets the beleaguered boy's voice just right as Duane bares all in his journal, admitting, "Lately I've been thinking a lot about the female body. Not in a weird or sick way but not in an artistic or medical way either." When these images pop into his mind, he forces himself to instead envision "elbows," a tactic that "helps. Sometimes." As he identifies with a baby bird going through its life changes in a nest outside his window, Duane bemoans his zits ("my face looks like I tried to kiss a rotary mower"), cracking voice ("It sounded like somebody hit a bullfrog with a big hammer right in the middle of a croak") and persistent cowlick (which he likens to "that bushy little tail you see on the back of a warthog in National Geographic"). At school, calamities abound: "a river of stupid" pours from his mouth when a new girl says hello to him (he later smacks her in the head with a volleyball in gym) and after creating a bald spot on his head while trying to cut his cowlick, he is suspected of havingand spreadingringworm. Though readers aren't likely to encounter all of the humiliations Duane endures, they will identify strongly with his insecurities. After he clumsily causes bookcases and a fish tank to topple in the library, the boy sardonically says, "You gotta love my life." For all the reasons Duane doesn't, readers will. Ages 10-up. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
Bawdy. Horny. Rollicking. Weird. Clumsy. Awkward. Hormonal. These are the words that come to mind when thinking about award-winning author Gary Paulsen's exploration into the very first days of male puberty. Twelve-year-old Duane Homer Leech has made a sudden, dramatic transformation into a clumsy, incomprehensible, sex-crazed doofus. As his journal details, Duane is suddenly unable to walk across a room, much less talk sensibly to a female classmate or even look at one without thinking entirely and solely about certain parts of her body. He is miserable, as are all of the boys in his class. At times outrageously funny, at times horrifically realistic (and sometimes both at the same time), Duane's story is one that will be wincingly familiar to all males who are going (or have gone) through the awful, necessary agony that is puberty.
VOYA - Beth Karpas
Paulsen is in top form in this brief twenty-day puberty journal. Duane, aka Duey, aka Doo-Doo, is just twelve when puberty hits in the form of pimples, klutziness, the inability to speak to girls, and disturbing focus on what he euphemistically calls "ELBOWS." As he adjusts to his own changes, he is watching the slow growth and fledging of a baby bird in the nest outside his window. As Duey grows pimples, the bird grows feathers and eventually flies. Duey might not fly, but he will become accustomed to the changes in himself and claim them as his own. The reader squirms right along with Duey as his tongue gets caught in his mouth, his thumb gets caught in the locker, he accidentally starts an epidemic panic at school, and the bookshelves crash into the aquarium . . . and the gerbil cage . . . and the guinea pig cage. On the other side, the reader has to think, "This boy is going to become an amazing man," when he describes the mystery of sex as "a beautiful sunset somebody else sees and tries to tell you about." Those are really the words of the author, a writer who has captured a very uncomfortable time of life amazingly well. This book is an innocent twelve-year-old's view of puberty. Paulsen's writing is beautiful, and it turns Duey's puberty journal into a description of a beautiful sunrise of its own.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Twelve-year-old Duane confides to readers, "I should have seen it coming," but no one ever does. It's called puberty. With laugh-out-loud lines and self-effacing humor, Duane describes 20 days during which he has disturbing dreams, sees "ELBOWS" everywhere (a euphemism for "part of a woman's body"), gets giant zits (recognized even by his parents), and notices his voice is changing (along with other body parts). He constantly falls over his own feet at school, babbles at girls, and manages to embarrass himself-several times-in front of the entire student body. But Duane has a good friend and a grandmother in whom he can confide. Ultimately, he recognizes that he's normal and understands that this awkward, awful, alarming time will eventually end. Short chapters and clipped language keep the pace fast and create empathy for Duane's plight. Just like the fledgling bird that he observes from his bedroom window, depicted in a comical black-and-white drawing at the start of each section, Duane's confidence and self-acceptance develop and he realizes that he will not only survive puberty, but also grow and become adept at many new things.-Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at Washington DC Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Twelve-year-old Duane Homer Leech feels he's in the clutches of something insidious, a cruel joke that's ruining his life. Everyone calls it "puberty," but what exactly is puberty? He can't walk without tripping; he's a human zit factory; when females are near, he can't form words, much less coherent sentences. He sees ELBOWS everywhere (that's his code word for those other parts of anatomy, which you can probably guess). At school, he causes a ringworm scare by cutting off his cowlick, leaving a circular bald spot. He destroys the library by falling against a shelf reaching for a book on puberty. Duane commiserates over the phone with his friend Willy and feels a kinship with the awkward, ugly baby bird that lives on his windowsill. Between Willy and the bird, Duane realizes that life after puberty won't be nearly as hellish. Paulsen has created a humorous Are you There God? It's Me, Margaret for boys. Every male on either side of puberty will see themselves in Duane. At times laugh-out-loud funny, here is an only slightly exaggerated manual for every boy encountering his first life change. (Fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher
“Paulsen’s perceptive, funny look at the life of 12-year-old Duane is at once indisputably real.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred
“Paulsen has created a humorous Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret for boys. Every male on either side of puberty will see themselves in Duane.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Paulsen’s writing is beautiful, and it turns Duey’s puberty journal into a description of a beautiful sunrise of its own.”—VOYA