Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

I have a twelve-year-old son and he is just wonderful, at least I think so. He is just about to begin 7th Grade and his assignment for summer reading is Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. I remember summer reading when I was younger and it was nothing so entertaining and age appropriate as this. Pride and Prejudice is wonderful, but having it forced down my throat at such a young age nearly ruined me for all classics.

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie follows Steven through his 8th Grade year of middle school. Steven is a talented drummer in the All-City band and spends hours at a time practicing in his basement. He is also infatuated by a girl at school named Renee. The school year seems to be starting like any other school year until Steven's much younger brother Jeffrey gets terribly sick. Jeffrey has leukemia.

There are lots of books out there about kids with cancer. What makes this one unique is that it isn't about the kid with the cancer, it's about the kid's brother and how he deals with the horror of watching a family member battle such an awful disease. Sonnenblick actually wrote this book because a student of his was experiencing the same thing and Sonnenblick, wanting to help, could find no books about siblings of cancer patients. None. Cancer is a terrible thing to experience, but watching a loved one with cancer is not easy. As Hermione says, "When in doubt, go to the library," but what if the library is lacking what you need? Sonnenblick's purpose was to fill that need. What he created is a story that shows that family of cancer patients aren't perfect. Even while feeling bad for his brother, Steven was still sometimes annoyed by him. Even while watching his parents struggle, Steven was angry at being left alone.

Sonnenblick also does a wonderful job of enumerating and explaining the five stages of grief, though he is careful not to call it anything so technical. He shows Steven making his way from denial and anger, through bargaining and depression to acceptance. It is in simple terms and the progression is far neater than most people would actually experience, but he shows that it is okay to have each of those feelings.

My son enjoyed this book and so did I. I appreciate his teachers picking a book that is both relatable to a 7th Grade boy and also full of useful information. While it wasn't great literature, I can recommend it to your preteens. I'm so glad summer reading has come so far in just one generation.

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