This breezy free-verse novel introduces memorable characters in recognizable situations. Spunky Minn, who is "pigtailed/ and lizardy/ and an only child/ the only only child in her class," recently lost her best friend to another girl. And as for the kindergarten-size new kid, "Jake knows/ everyone is staring at him/ because he is so short,/ and maybe also/ because he has a new spiky haircut/ that he never asked for/ that makes him look/ like a baby crow." As the two protagonists struggle to make friends, Minn tries to teach the cowardly Jake to catch lizards, while Jake shows Minn how to make a fast buck. Throughout, the cast of fifth-graders teases and gossips convincingly. Fans of Wong should not expect the refined and literary poetry of her Night Garden; these prose-like entries will invite quick, light reading. Cate's b&w illustrations achieve unusual dimension. Incorporating what seem to be collage elements, her strikingly graphic compositions mirror the deceptive ease of the verse narration. Ages 7-10. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Friends are an important part of our lives no matter what our age, but they are especially significant in the fifth grade. Minn, the tallest in the class, has lost her best friend to another girl and feels odd and alone. Jake, who is short, is the new kid in class and wishes his father had never taken a new job so he could stay at his old school. He feels everyone staring at him and feels bad. The two end up spending recess together, but not by choice. There are few things worse in the fifth grade then having to spend recess with someone you don't like. Eventually, they both find they do have something in common. They each want a best friend. Minn and Jake discover that friendships can form in the most unsuspecting ways. Written in an entertaining format, this book would be a great way to encourage discussion about friends for young readers. 2003, Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus and Giroux, Ages 10 to 13.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-Minn, the lonely young narrator who has just lost her best friend asks, "Do you ever feel this way?" establishing a connection to readers on the first page of this short novel. Wong's free-verse writing suits this warm story of unlikely friendship between "odd- pigtailed- and very much alone" Minn and Jake, a newcomer to fifth grade who is short and "has a new spiky haircut/-that makes him look/like a baby crow." The connection for them is lizard catching, an after-school activity unique to their community of Santa Brunella. Minn is good at it, Jake is terrified of lizards. The plot twists through the few emotional tight spots successfully: Minn's determination not to "waste her time/on that city boy Jake," and, in turn, Jake's rejection of Minn when he bluntly hangs up on her. Just in time, the story develops tension through the class bullies, Vik and Henry, who make Jake's life miserable, tormenting him about his fears. Ultimately, however, Jake proves his mettle. C t 's whimsical, spare black-and-white sketches are reminiscent of drawings that might be found in a fifth-grade student's notebook and work well with this story.-Lee Bock, Glenbrook Elementary School, Pulaski, WI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Tall Minn and small Jake are the Mutt and Jeff of fifth grade. Each one is desperately seeking a true best friend, but neither knows quite how to go about it. Minn is enamored of worms, lizards, and the like, while newcomer Jake cannot abide them. There are some misadventures with lizard catching and worm eating and a practical joke and dare that go terribly wrong, but somehow a friendship grows. Wong tells the story in free verse that is only partially successful. At times it's charming and moving, conveying the two children's insecurities and awkward attempts at understanding each other. But the use of the immediate present tense often renders the language stiff. Côté's black-and-white sketches add a nice touch, but do little to flesh out what is essentially a very slight work. (Fiction. 8-10)
From the Publisher
“With simple, distilled details, [Wong] creates full, lovable characters in Minn and Jake- tough, precocious oddballs who find a strong sense of themselves in each other's differences...appealing, whimsical sketches.” Booklist
“Côté's b&w illustrations achieve unusual dimension. Incorporating what seem to be collage elements, her strikingly graphic compositions mirror the deceptive ease of the verse narration.” Publishers Weekly