The broad humor that runs throughout this heavily illustrated story from Patterson and Grabenstein masks personal pain, demonstrating resiliency in the face of tragedy. Wheelchair-bound middle-schooler Jamie has recently moved in with his aunt’s cheerless family, including—a bit too conveniently—school bully Stevie, Jamie’s new “adoptive brother.” Despite Jamie’s desire to be treated like an ordinary kid (one of the more important themes the authors emphasize) and a dark, lingering unknown (only late in the novel does Jamie reveal the reason for his paralysis and his parents’ absence), humor abounds. Much of it derives from Jamie’s comedic aspirations (he calls himself a “sit-down comic”), which are fueled by his friends’ reactions to his one-liners and the encouragement of his warmhearted uncle. Park’s wisecracking cartoons (not all seen by PW) play an integral role in the storytelling, laying bare Jamie’s fears, triumphs, and sense of humor. Not all the jokes land, but plenty do, and the value of having an author with as vast a reach as Patterson put a disabled character in the spotlight shouldn’t be underestimated. Ages 8–12. Agent: Robert Barnett at Williams & Connolly. (Dec.)
Praise for I Funny:
A #1 New York Times bestseller
A 2014 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award Nominee
A 2014 Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Book Award Winner
"....Poignant.... Readers learn about [Jamie's] devastating loss and recovery from a tragic event....The affecting ending, which reveals a more vulnerable Jamie behind the guise of his humor, celebrates Jamie's resilient spirit."Kirkus Reviews
"The broad humor that runs throughout this heavily illustrated story... masks personal pain, demonstrating resiliency in the face of tragedy."
"Play[s] readers' heartstrings like a banjo.... A brimming bucket of bada-bing!"Booklist
Middle schooler Jamie Grimm can turn any situation into a joke. Being in a wheelchair has taught him that humor acts as a powerful shield against grief and pain. Jamie now lives with his Aunt and Uncle “Smiley” in Long Beach, New York. They never smile, and Cousin Stevie is an equal opportunity bully. He has no compunction knocking over a kid in a wheelchair. Jamie finds refuge in his Uncle Frankie’s diner, where he tests jokes on the customers. Frankie encourages Jamie to enter the Planet’s Funniest Kid Comic Contest, but he will have to overcome his stage fright to succeed. Jamie receives further support from “Cool Girl,” as well as his friends, Pierce and Gaynor. This hybrid novel layers middle-school situational humor with the more practiced jokes of a comedian-in-training. Caricature art with jokes in word bubbles mix with paragraph text. The plot structure creates dramatic tension by slowly revealing Jaime’s tragic past, but discerning readers will catch on by the middle of the story. Reluctant readers may find the flashbacks and short, choppy chapters more enigmatic than most hybrid stories. Despite its pictorial elements, this story may function best as an audio book. Not every reader will be able to mimic the timing necessary to appreciate the delivery of Jaime’s jokes. While a pedestrian story, most libraries will need to own this due to the author’s reputation and the popular format. Ages 11 to 14.
Gr 4–7—Jamie Grimm is a funny guy, obsessed with creating and collecting joke material. He studies all of the top comedians and tries out his jokes on everyone, be it his classmates or the customers at his Uncle Frankie's diner. He hopes to enter the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic Contest even though just the thought of it makes him a nervous wreck. Readers learn that humor for Jamie is a means of survival-things aren't easy for him. He doesn't like to talk about why it all happened, but he had to move to a new city, to live with "the Smileys," his very unfunny aunt and uncle. At Long Beach Middle School, he is treated horribly by the resident bully. Steve Kosgrov is not only a notorious meany, but is also Jamie's new adoptive brother. Steve gets his kicks by locking him out in the cold and leaving him stuck in a sand dune unable to move. Jamie isn't able to move because he uses a wheelchair-he can't walk at all. The grimness of his situation is relieved by two good buddies, his encouraging Uncle Frankie, and his ever-present ability to see humor in every situation. Patterson's tale includes twists and turns that make for an engrossing read. Readers will be on Jamie's side all the way, cheering him on in the comedy contest, and also to win the girl of his dreams. Line drawings are sprinkled throughout, adding more humorous details.—Diane McCabe, John Muir Elementary, Santa Monica, CA
Middle school student Jamie is an aspiring comic. Referring to the fact that he requires a wheelchair, Jamie challenges readers: "So, can you deal with this? Some people can. Some can't." Frequently quoting his favorite comedians, Jamie reflects on life, using his forthright observations to hone his own comedic skills. Jamie relies on his quick wit and sometimes-audacious jokes to deflect inquiries about his circumstances. Recently adopted by his aunt, Jamie's new family includes Stevie, a bully whose callous cruelties often take advantage of Jamie's physical condition. Seeking refuge at his Uncle Frankie's diner, Jamie regales the customers with his humor. Uncle Frankie's suggestion that Jamie enter a local comedy competition tests Jamie's determination to become a comedian. Patterson and Grabenstein balance Jamie's humor with a poignant storyline. Through Jamie's evolving relationship with the intriguing Suzie, aka Cool Girl, readers learn about his devastating loss and recovery from a tragic event. Park's humorous spot illustrations complement the text. The affecting ending, which reveals a more vulnerable Jamie behind the guise of his humor, celebrates Jamie's resilient spirit. (Fiction. 10-13)