Twerp by Mark Goldblatt. Realistic Fiction.
As penance for his actions, Julian Twerski’s English teacher, Mr. Selkirk, requires him to write about the event that caused his recent suspension from school. The project stretches through the school year as Julian avoids studying Shakespeare and avoids discussing the topic.
Themes/Content: Friendship, family, regret, bullying, writing, school, first person narratives, foreshadowing, Shakespeare, running (track), self image, Judiasm
Recommended for: Grades 6 and up, boys, reluctant readers, teaching foreshadowing
My Two Cents: This is a compelling story, set in the late 1960’s, about a boy who knows he’s done something wrong, but doesn’t want to admit it. Each chapter chronicles another misadventure in which he tries to show that what he did to cause his suspension was not as bad as some of other things he has done in the past. Julian is a very likable character and even though he makes a lot of poor choices, he also makes his best effort to make amends. I can really relate to Julian because he communicates much better in writing than he does orally. As the story progresses you can see the writing on the wall (no pun intended) as he documents his conversations. You feel for him, when those conversations lead to misunderstandings.
The events in the story focus on Julian and his friends, all sixth graders. Consequently there is a lot of action revolving around sixth grade boys doing typical “sixth-grade-boy” things. There are dangerous stunts, and budding romances, and there is some language that you might expect from sixth graders out of earshot of adults. A few of the passages might not be appropriate for some readers, but as a whole the story is very appropriate for sixth graders.
This is a good book for teaching foreshadowing because you know something bad as happened but Julian skirts the issue, leaving the reader curious about what he did. As the story progresses, Goldblatt drops little bits and pieces of information that change your perspective about what has been written previously. The historical backdrop does not play a very big role in this story so I put this in the category of realistic fiction rather than historical fiction. I can recommend this a read-aloud for the right class, provided you are comfortable with the pubescent passages and text.
Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:
- Aliki. William Shakespeare & the Globe. New York: HarperCollins, 1999. Print.
- Buyea, Rob. Because of Mr. Terupt. New York: Delacorte Press, 2010. Print.
- Canfield, Jack, and Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Hansen and Iren. Chicken soup for the preteen soul : 101 stories of changes, choices, and growing up for kids 9-13. New York: Scholastic, 2000. Print.
- Clements, Andrew, and Mark Elliott. Trouble-maker. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011. Print.
- Preller, James. Bystander. New York, NY: Feiwel and Friends, 2009. Print.
- Schmidt, Gary D. The Wednesday wars. New York: Clarion Books, 2007. Print.
- Shakespeare, William, David S. Kastan, and Marina Kastan. William Shakespeare. New York: Sterling, 2000. Print.
- Shakespeare, William, William Rosen, and Barbara Rosen. The tragedy of Julius Caesar : with new and updated critical essays and a revised bibliography. New York: Signet Classic, 1998. Print.
Favorite Quote: “Sometimes when you brace yourself for a storm, you get a gentle breeze. The storm only comes when you’re braced for nothing whatsoever.” (Goldblatt, Mark. Twerp. NY: Random House, 2013. 16. Print.)
Final Word(s): Julian’s an honest character. Read this one! 🙂