Fearless Fernie


For Fernie and his best friend, the fun begins when they are babies who crawl across the lawn towards each other, away from their parents' watchful eyes. And once they find each other, they are inseparable.

Together, they grow to be the self-proclaimed artistic geniuses and master athletes of their school. But they do admit to being losers at spelling bees and camping out. And when it comes to romance, well, if waltzing with a broom in the ...

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For Fernie and his best friend, the fun begins when they are babies who crawl across the lawn towards each other, away from their parents' watchful eyes. And once they find each other, they are inseparable.

Together, they grow to be the self-proclaimed artistic geniuses and master athletes of their school. But they do admit to being losers at spelling bees and camping out. And when it comes to romance, well, if waltzing with a broom in the kitchen or sporting glowing orange socks to a school dance counts, these guys are cool.

Gary Soto's original poems and Regan Dunnick's clever illustrations will spark recognition in all middle-schoolers who've gone through the humiliation of sports try-outs and first dances; who've had to deal with body images and swinging moods. Each of the poems in this book shows a scene from their sometimes difficult, sometimes comical lives growing up together as best friends. Even though they don't have everything in common, they both know that at least they're in it together.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Gary Soto explores a friendship forged at birth and the adolescent growing pains of two middle school boys in Body Parts in Rebellion: Hanging Out with Fernie and Me, illus. by Regan Dunnick. From sports tryouts to teacher trouble to memories of long ago, the more than 40 poems deliver a thoughtful perspective on universal themes. (Mar.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
In gently humorous, deceptively simple poetry, Soto introduces readers to the nameless narrator and his best friend, Fernie, buddies since infancy. Illustrator Regan Dunnick's drawing of two bemused, bare-bottomed babies greeting one another amid "weeds tall as Zulu spears" is worth the price of the book. Young teens will recognize Soto's subtle depiction of the thrills and chills of growing up. The narrator describes being cut from the football team as being sent out for a long pass that ends up in his living room: "When I turned on the TV, crowds were cheering / Those who had made the team." Fernie feels guilty about ignoring a boy who eats lunch alone on the playground, "loneliness like crumbs at his feet. " One stellar poem, "Dance Lessons," manages to illustrate Fernie's insecurity, his longing for an unattainable girl, and his feelings about his sister, all in two short pages. Without ever describing them, Soto makes the imaginative narrator and practical Fernie vivid and real. Canny middle school teachers could sneak their students into blank verse, first with Sharon Creech's Love That Dog (Joana Cotler Books, 2001), then introduce Fernie and friend before moving on to the more sophisticated narrative of Out of the Dust (Scholastic, 1997/VOYA April 1998) by Karen Hesse. Academic aims aside, readers will enjoy accepting the subtitle's invitation to "hang out with Fernie and me." VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002, Putnam's, 64p, $14.99. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer: Kathleen Beck SOURCE: VOYA, February 2002 (Vol. 24, No.6)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-A collection of 41 short poems by a prolific and gifted writer. The narrator and his friend Fernie are sixth graders with lots on their minds: sports, girls, school, family. Strongly rhythmic, with vivid imagery, the mostly unrhymed selections are universal yet wonderfully particular. Soto smoothly juggles moods, going from funny ("When Fernie was five and school was over for the day, He thought his teacher, Miss Alexander, went into the closet, Stood there among the brooms And maybe a stringy mop") to poignant (in "Guilt," Fernie remembers a friendless classmate in third grade: "Was he still there, in the far corner of the playground? Were the sparrows there, or did they fly elsewhere Once the boy-what's his name-had nothing to give, His lunch all gone, loneliness like crumbs at his feet"). The simple, dynamic sketches sprinkled throughout are just right, providing some humorous and rueful grace notes for this little gem. Overall, this is a wonderful example of distinctive writing with true child appeal. It will make a great classroom read-aloud, and many kids will enjoy it on their own, too.-Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Capable as ever of making common childhood experiences marvelous, Soto (Baseball in April, 2000, etc.) poetically delineates a fast friendship between a never-named observer and his irrepressible buddy Fernie. Given to sudden flights of imagination, the writer opens with an image of the two as infants, "both as bald as plucked chickens and clucking like chickens" and finishes with a rapturous bout of snow-eating ("Then, wow, an elephant from nowhere arrived / To hose up his share of the snow"). In between, along with some solitary moments, he records Fernie's exuberant dance with a broom, the time he put 100 candles on a birthday cake, missed ten pop flies in one game, tried to pound a nail in with a baseball bat, and more. Gathering various elements from each poem into postmodern, expressionistic scenes, Dunnick captures the poet's gloomy moods better than the more joyous ones, but Soto's conversational, seemingly artless writing will draw young readers, poetry fans or not, into the world, and the heads, of these two everylads. (Poetry. 8-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399236150
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 1,427,704
  • Age range: 10 - 11 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 5.88 (h) x 0.38 (d)

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