• Review
By – June 6, 2014

Julian Twer­s­ki, nick­named Twerp, is at that awk­ward age where he doesn’t quite fit in and finds sixth grade very chal­leng­ing as he tries to bal­ance school, sports, and fam­i­ly. Grow­ing up in 1969 Queens, New York, Julian does not have much parental super­vi­sion and is free to roam the neigh­bor­hood streets after school with his friend, Lon­nie, who often pro­vokes his peers to fol­low him in adventur­ous escapades that lead to dis­as­trous results. When the boys push a spe­cial needs boy, Dan­ley Dim­mel, to the edge by pre­tend­ing to be his friend and then bom­bard­ing him with eggs, Julian is found guilty and sus­pend­ed for his involve­ment in the bul­ly­ing inci­dent. Nobody wants to talk about the details of the event, so Mr. Selkirk, his Eng­lish teacher, presents Julian with an inter­est­ing ulti­ma­tum —keep a jour­nal instead of doing the class as­signment of writ­ing a report on Julius Cae­sar, hop­ing that he will be com­pelled to write the truth of the bad deed.” Julian is a wit­ty and tal­ent­ed writer and uses the assign­ment as cathar­sis and he spills his emo­tions on ev­erything — being the fastest run­ner at school, hav­ing a crush on a girl, and being embar­rassed by his par­ents — except the inci­dent at hand. Although Julian is not over­ly reli­gious, his bar mitz­vah is on the hori­zon, he seems to take Rab­bi Salzberg’s words of wis­dom quite seri­ous­ly, often com­ment­ing on some of the key points in his jour­nal. At one point, Julian can­not seem to make amends with his best friend and turns to the Rab­bi for help, who explains that he’s just going through a schli­mazel (bad luck) phase and he’s sure it will pass as it always does. Julian is for­tu­nate to have some pos­i­tive adult men­tors as well as the sup­port of his sis­ter, and although it takes him a full school year, he seems to find his foot­ing and takes respon­si­bil­i­ty for his actions. Read­ers who have enjoyed Wednes­day Wars by Schmidt (HMH Books, 2007) will savor this delight­ful com­ing of age story. 

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 10 – 13.

Debra Gold has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 20 years in the Cuya­hoga Coun­ty Pub­lic Library Sys­tem. An active mem­ber of the ALA, she has served on many com­mit­tees includ­ing the Calde­cott, New­bery and Batchelder committees.

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