David Greenberg, would-be future anchor of The Daily Show, enters middle school with problems: Longtime best friend Elliott has abandoned him for new, nastier and bigger friends, David hasn't spoken with his runaway mother in months and he's dumbstruck by a sudden crush on adorable, peppermint-scented redhead Sophie Meyers. Sophie shares David's funny videos-in which he apes Jon Stewart's style and tone as only a burgeoning sixth-grade comedian can-with her homeschooling friends, launching David into sudden Internet fame. Real life intrudes in the forms of merciless teasing by Elliott and his friends and David's desperate desire to connect with his mentally ill mother, who abandoned the family for life in rural Maine two years ago. Sensible and loving win out over mean and bullying, giving David space to balance his real and online lives. Gephart maps the hormonal, emotionally torturous terrain of pubescent boyhood with realistic dialogue, well-developed secondary characters and age-appropriate humor and insight, placing this title in the same august league as Jordan Sonnenblick's Girls, Drums and Dangerous Pie (2004). (Fiction. 10-13)
This funny, tender novel stars 11-year-old David Greenberg, who lives with his father, older sister, and beloved grandmother (his mother left the family two years earlier). David idolizes comedian Jon Stewart and spends his days with his best friend, Elliott, uploading to YouTube episodes of his homemade show, TalkTime, which stars his pet hamster. But when middle school begins, Elliott abandons David for the school bully, and David, in turn, is befriended by formerly homeschooled new student Sophie, who loves his videos and sends them to her network of homeschooled kids. Gephart (As If Being 12 3/4 Isn't Bad Enough, My Mother Is Running for President!) writes effectively about David's feelings about his family, his betrayal by Elliott, and his continued isolation: “What good does it do to have thousands of fans online when not a single person at school likes me except Sophie?” Although his observations sometimes seem too mature and the eventual resolution between David and Elliott feels anticlimactic, Gephart's story is relatable and compulsively readable. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2010: "Gephart maps the ... terrain of pubescent boyhood with realistic dialogue, well-developed secondary characters, and age-appropriate humor and insight."
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
Ugh, middle school. Even decades later, I can remember the dread I felt at moving from being a big kid on campus in elementary school to a low person on the totem pole in middle school. That's how narrator David Greenberg feels at the beginning of this book. David's dread is compounded by an argument with his best friend Elliot. Since the boys are no longer friends, David can't count on Elliot's help when making his TalkTime comedy videos for Youtube. Worse, Elliot has become chummy with the school bully, Tommy Murphyand Tommy has it in for David. At least there is Sophie. While working together on a science project, David shows her his videos. Sophie loves them so much she e-mails the links to everyone she knows, and before you know it, David's an instant celebrity! He's even mentioned on the show of his hero, Jon Stewart. That doesn't solve his problem with Tommy Murphy, his longing for his mother, his awkwardness around Sophie, or his fear of "swirlies," but it does make middle school a whole lot more bearable. And who knows? Maybe Elliot will come around yet. Gephardt's take on middle school angst is realistic. David's instant fame may be a solution that many adolescents wish for, but it seems a stretch. (Don't lots of teens post self-made videos on Youtube these days? How many achieve social acceptance and celebrity as a result? I suspect few.) Still, David is a likeable character, and this is a quick read. Readers will be glad to find that he survives middle schooland they can, too. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—As a huge fan of comedic TV anchorman Jon Stewart, David Greenberg creates original Talk Time videos starring himself and his hamster, and posts them on YouTube. His former friend, Elliott, used to collaborate on the videos, but now chooses to hang out with Tommy Murphy, an infamous bully who besets David, a lowly sixth grader. Short and scrawny, David is an easy target for Tommy's depredations, yet he simultaneously wins the friendship and loyalty of sweet Sophie, who tells all her friends to view his hilarious videos and post great comments, bringing good publicity to David, who intends to become a famous talk-show host. Then Hammy dies, and after Tommy subjects David to the ultimate indignity of a swirlie, he wonders what good is it to be famous online while being called Lameberg at school. Part of his problem is that he misses his mother, who abandoned the family for another man, as well as the fact that he insulted his older sister by mocking her acne treatments in his videos. Then there's Elliott, whose fickle behavior defies understanding, but who eventually returns to being David's friend. Things start to look up with the exciting news that David's clever videos will be aired on The Daily Show. With short chapters and broad humor, this one is for "Wimpy Kid" aficionados (Abrams).—Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT
Read an Excerpt
The first day of summer vacation is important, because what you do that day sets the tone for the rest of summer.
That's why my best friend, Elliott Berger, is coming over to watch the Daily Show episodes I've recorded. Mom and I used to watch them together. She always said the host, Jon Stewart, stood up for the little guy, which is funny, because Jon Stewart is a little guy--five feet seven inches. According to Wikipedia, the average height for men in the United States is five feet nine and a half inches.
Let's just say I can totally relate to Jon's height issue.
Anyway, I record other shows, like The Colbert Report and Late Show, too, but mostly Elliott and I watch The Daily Show. We both think Jon Stewart is hilarious and a great interviewer. Someday I'm going to be a famous talk show host like Jon.
He and I have a lot in common.
1. We're both Jewish.
2. We both have our own talk shows--but mine's different from his. It's called TalkTime and I post the shows on YouTube.
3. We're both vertically challenged (but I still have time to grow).
Since Elliott won't be here for a while, I shoot my first TalkTime of the summer without him.
First I set up the studio (aka my bedroom) by taping a poster of New York City's skyline on my wall, kind of like they do on the Late Show with David Letterman. That way it looks like I'm shooting in an exciting location instead of boring Bensalem, Pennsylvania, where the biggest news is that they opened a Golden Corral buffet restaurant on Street Road. (Yes, I know that's a weird name for a road, but that's what it's called. It's almost as stupid as parking in a driveway and driving on a parkway.)
Anyway, next I make sure my special guest is ready in the greenroom (aka the bathroom).
Finally, I set my camera on the tripod in my bedroom, bang two empty paper-towel rolls together and say, "Action!"
Using my best talk show host voice, I begin: "Welcome to TalkTime with David Greenberg." I scribble on a piece of paper with a grand flourish, like Jon Stewart does on The Daily Show. Then I crumple the paper, toss it into my laundry basket and keep talking. "It's our first show of the summer and it's going to be a hot one. Ha! Ha!"
I hear Hammy's wheel spin like crazy, so I turn the camera toward his cage and give him a close-up. "And now," I say, "your moment of Hammy." As though on cue, Hammy hops off his wheel, looks up and twitches his whiskers.
I smile and think about how I'll edit that later, showing a split screen--Hammy on the right, credits scrolling on the left.
I point the camera back at myself and sit in front of fake New York. "Before we get to today's special guest, it's time for Top Six and a Half with David Greenberg.
"Top Six and a Half Things That I, David Todd Greenberg, Will Miss About Longwood Elementary School.
"One: The lunch lady who snuck ice cream onto my tray every Friday. By the way, awesome hairnet, lunch lady.
"Two: Student of the Week, which I won a total of seven times--more than anyone in the history of Longwood El. Wahoo!"
I pace around my room until I come up with number three. "Three: Helping Ms. Florez in the TV studio with morning announcements. She said I was the best news anchor she ever had."
I pace again and trip on the tripod. The camera topples, but I catch it. I can edit that out later, though it'll make a weird jump in the action. It would probably be safer if I wrote my Top Six and a Half before I filmed them! Back in front of fake New York, I take a deep breath and say, "Four: Spanish Club.
"Five: Academic Games.
"Six: Watching Coach Lukasik, who is definitely not vertically challenged--that man could be an NBA superstar--hula hoop during P.E. with the girls.
"And the thing I'll miss most about Longwood El?
"Six and one-half: Everything!"
From the Hardcover edition.