Scribble

Scribble

by Richard W. Jennings
     
 

He saw the first one at Wal-Mart, where a person can find just about anything they need, and quite a lot they don’t—even ghosts, as twelve-year-old Lawson discovers. Soon, Lawson’s days and nights are filled with the comings and goings of numerous long-dead famous people. But for all the ghosts he sees, there is one whose face he cannot, no matter

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Overview

He saw the first one at Wal-Mart, where a person can find just about anything they need, and quite a lot they don’t—even ghosts, as twelve-year-old Lawson discovers. Soon, Lawson’s days and nights are filled with the comings and goings of numerous long-dead famous people. But for all the ghosts he sees, there is one whose face he cannot, no matter how hard he tries. Jip: Jennifer Iris Palmer—why couldn’t he picture her face, when he wanted to more than anything? She would have understood. Jip knew something about everything. But Jip was gone, leaving Lawson without the benefit of his best friend’s extensive knowledge. Together with his dog Scribble, he struggles to unravel the meaning of his experiences.
Through Lawson’s unusual misadventures, author Richard Jennings presents a sensitive and moving portrayal of one boy’s struggle to make some sense of his world in the wake of the loss of his best friend.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The wry text is suffused with the anguish of one left behind...the matter-of-fact narration by turns funny and achingly sad.
Kirkus Reviews

Lawson's attempts to comprehend difficult events and experiences are sympathetically portrayed...[Jennings] ably conveys the importance of friendship and the discovery that not everything is logical.
Booklist, ALA

Children's Literature
Twelve-year-old Lawson is mourning the death of his best friend Jip, the extraordinary girl next door. At the same time he is bonding with Scribble, his independent-minded Jack Russell terrier. Lawson leads an isolated life with few anchors to reality: he has no friends, his parents (whom he calls "Buzz and Cornelia") are alien beings, his home town is a bleak place whose only landmarks are a cemetery and a huge Wal-Mart. When he starts seeing ghosts of famous people and is sometimes able to become invisible and glide through walls, he wonders if Jip is trying to contact him or if these odd happenings are just manifestations of his grief. The narrator's voice seems unusually mature for a twelve-year old, as does his knowledge of history. Oddly, though, when Eleanor Roosevelt materializes, he seems to know nothing about her at all. Why Mrs. Roosevelt or, for that matter, Sam Walton? Most of the ghosts have little to add to Lawson's or the reader's understanding. As he reaches his thirteenth birthday, however, Lawson is coming to terms with his feelings for Jip and Scribble and, with help from a loving aunt and uncle, his life will improve. Jennings has often been referred to as a writer of "quirky" novels; perhaps he is working hard to live up to this reputation. Teen readers may sympathize with Lawson's very real sense of loss and his bonding with the feisty Scribble, but may also feel that the author has gone beyond "quirky" to "self-consciously peculiar." 2004, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 12 to 16.
—Barbara L. Talcroft
VOYA
Jennings gets inside the heart, soul, and mind of sensitive twelve-year-old Lawson, who is struggling to accept the death of his best friend, Jip (Jennifer Iris Palmer). Jip was fun, knowledgeable, and a welcome retreat from Lawson's battling parents. After naming Jip's new puppy Scribble because of his markings, Lawson soon becomes his owner. It is to Scribble that Lawson turns after Jip dies. In his grief, Lawson is unable to recall Jip's face no matter how he relives their adventures. Jip had shared her ideas about "other side" experiences and manifestations of spirits. Soon Lawson is encountering all sorts of people who have "passed over"-Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart; Eleanor Roosevelt; and even Nat "King" Cole. Why can't he bring forth the one person he needs most-Jip? Shifting seamlessly between past times with Jip, present events, and adventures that might-or might not-be imaginative, Jennings tackles the difficult topic of loss and death. Liberally laced with poetic images and humor-imagine Scribble twirling like a music-box ballerina-this book gently invites readers to explore areas that even adults avoid. What does happen after death? Is the person lost in every sense to those who remain? With the irresistible Scribble by his side, Lawson begins to develop insight and his satisfactory recovery seems assured. Part dog story, ghost story, and love story, this book will delight middle schoolers. It would make an enjoyable class read-aloud and foster discussions about coping with loss. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004,Houghton Mifflin, 176 p., Ages 11 to 15.
—Barbara Johnston
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Twelve-year-old Lawson's best friend dies after a long illness, prior to the start of this quirky tale. He has Scribble, Jip's dog, whom he believes can see ghosts. Soon he begins to see them, too, starting with Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. The rambling plot has Lawson believing that Jip is trying to contact him via spirit writing. Deeply upset that he can no longer picture her face in his mind, he tries to figure out her messages. Eleanor Roosevelt kidnaps Scribble in order to get Lawson's attention. Then Nat King Cole drives by in a bus, saying that what the boy wants is in the basement of Jip's empty house. Lawson confronts his friend's cousin and finds a videotape of Jip's funeral. He is now able to fix her face in his memory forever by viewing the pictures of her at the funeral. The subplot of the protagonist's miserable home life is happily resolved by his moving in with an aunt and uncle. Jennings's narrator is too mature to be fully believable, and the anticlimactic ending is disappointing. The author's fans may enjoy his familiar use of oblique time shifts and the wise-beyond-belief narrator. Others may simply find the story over the top.-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Library, Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
"That's the thing about missing somebody who's not coming back. . . . It's like trying to live without food." Thirteen-year-old Lawson is grieving the loss of his best friend, Jip; when his terrier Scribble barks at nothing one day, Lawson draws the only logical conclusion: it must be ghosts. Lawson is a classic Jennings protagonist, alienated from his parents, possessed of a voice far older than his years, and driven by pure, unshakable faith: not only does the Afterlife exist, but he can somehow, with the help of Scribble, access it to communicate with Jip. Jip is not immediately forthcoming, but with the help of the shades of Sam Walton, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Nat "King" Cole, Lawson does manage to move through his grief to resolution. Darker than previous novels, the wry text is suffused with the anguish of one left behind. The narrative moves back and forth from the present to Lawson's days with the terminally ill Jip, his matter-of-fact narration by turns funny and achingly sad, the arbitrary nature of life and death-and life after death-mining the surreal for truth. (Fiction. 10-14)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618433674
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
10/28/2004
Pages:
160
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.38(d)
Lexile:
1000L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Richard W. Jennings has published more than fifty essays, articles, and short stories, including The Tragic Tale of the Dog Who Killed Himself, published by Bantam Books in 1980 to widespread critical acclaim, in addition to his recent titles published with Houghton Mifflin—Orwell's Luck, The Great Whale of Kansas, My Life of Crime, and Scribble. He is cofounder of a popular Kansas City-area bookstore and former editor of KANSAS CITY MAGAZINE. He has five children, four grandchildren, a dog, a cat, and a parrot and lives in Kansas.

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