Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

Sonnenblick, Jordan.
New York : Scholastic Press, 2006
ISBN 0439757797

(3 booktalks)

Click on the book to read Amazon reviews
Booktalk #1

This is a story of Alex Gregory, his jazz guitar, his best friend Laurie, an angry judge, and a feisty old man dying of emphysema, and how the combination changes all of them.

It sounded like a good plan when I thought of it, even brilliant. I'd drink one more pint of Dad's vodka, swipe my mother's car keys and drive over to my dad's house and tell him what I thought of his getting it on with my third grade teacher and breaking up with my mom.

But I was more smashed than I thought I was, and I ended up in the middle of Mrs. Wilson's lawn, with the lawn gnome I'd just decapitated. Mom wasn't happy to have her first date since Dad moved out interrupted to bail me out, the cops who arrested me weren't happy about the fact that I threw up all over them, and my best friend Laurie wasn't happy with me because I hadn't called so she could talk me out of doing such a dumb thing. But what really reeked was the fact that the judge absolutely hated drunk drivers, especially when they weren't willing to admit they'd done something wrong-and I wasn't. I mean I hadn't hurt anyone-it was just a lawn gnome, for crying out loud!  But she sentenced me to a hundred hours of community service, anyway, and told me I had to pay to have the lawn gnome replaced and the car fixed.

I was supposed to go to this old folks home and talk to one of the men who lived there, like make friends with him or something. But the guy my mom picked out for me to visit was the meanest guy I've ever met! His name was Solomon Lewis, and he looked like an ancient, merciless old gargoyle, and was rude, angry, and verbally abusive.  I tried every way I could to get out of the gig, but it was impossible. The judge was determined to make me serve each and every hour of my sentence with him. She wanted me to learn from him, and him to learn from me.  Never mind that we didn't have anything in common, and he was bitter, old, and got his kicks from taunting the other residents. We still had to spend a hundred hours together.  --This booktalk was written by university professor, librarian, and booktalking expert Joni Richards Bodart. (  (Rhode Island Teen Book Award nominee 2007-2008)

Booktalk #2

What do you do when your mother decides to find herself?  Calliope’s idyllic life with a father and a mother comes to a swift end when her mother decides to live a carefree life traveling from one small town after another to perform as a wench in Renaissance Faires.  Every time they move, Calliope’s  life belongings have to fit in one duffel bag and a small box. Her mother’s jewelry, that she makes and sells, takes up the rest of the room in their two-door Datsun hatchback.

What do you do when your father finds Jesus?  Eliot also has a carefree life living on the Carolina coast, until his father finds religion. Then his father drags him and his mother to the woods of Asheville, North Carolina to start a Fat Camp based on the motto, “What Would Jesus Eat?” Eliot at least can pursue his secret hobby of making beauty. Fireworks.  Thunderbolts, Peacock Plumes, Rosebuds. Serpents, Creepers, Whirlwinds, etc.  But this often involves sneaking off in the family van to make his pickup of the illegal explosives that he has had shipped across state lines.

What do you do when you meet a person who has a parent as crazy as yours?  Calliope and Eliot feel an immediate connection.  Together they can face their isolation, the threat of another move, and the deepening of their respective parents’ craziness.  And maybe, they can even find love.   (Mary M. Silgals, Trident Academy, for South Carolina Young Adult Book Awards, 2008-2009)

Booktalk #3

Sixteen-year-old Alex Gregory decides to get revenge on his parents who have recently split. Not exactly planning well, he drinks a pint of vodka, steals his mother’s car and ends up decapitating his neighbor’s lawn gnome, getting alcohol poisoning, and being charged with “DUI”. As penance he must spend 100 hours with Solomon Lewis, a bitter old man with no family and emphysema. At first, he is turned off by Sol’s sharp comments, but Alex takes this as a challenge. His best friend, Laurie, whom Sol calls Alex’s wife, helps Alex find the sunnier side of Sol. Eventually it is music that unites the two. Alex brings his guitar and Sol is soothed. Sol was a jazz musician who teaches Alex more than music. He gets Alex to care about what happens even if life isn’t what you expect. In the end though, it is Alex who helps Sol finish the business of his life. This book is about taking responsibility and Alex is not the only one who needs to learn this.  (Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards Program, 2009-2010)

SUBJECTS:     Self-perception -- Fiction.
                        Friendship -- Fiction.
                        Nursing homes -- Fiction.
                        Guitar -- Fiction.
                        Musicians -- Fiction.
                        Family problems -- Fiction.

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