Tuesday

Totally Joe


Totally Joe
by James Howe
MG fiction. 189 pp.
Atheneum. 2005.

In this follow-up novel to The Misfits (which apparently inspired No Name-Calling Week--coming up January 23-27), we get to become more acquainted with Joe Bunch. His English teacher, Mr. Daly, has assigned his students to write their alphabiographies--the story of their lives from A to Z.

This isn't an action book; it's a character book. Joe, fortunately, has a strong voice, though I feel it may be a bit too strong for a seventh grader. But the format is engaging, and it quickly pulls you into his life and personality. This book may be groundbreaking in that it's likely the first middle-grade (assuming standard protagonist/reader age difference) novel with an openly gay protagonist. In some regards, this is a good thing in that it helps expose kids to diversity, to other kids who are different (or perhaps the same). But the book also becomes fairly weak in that it seems to have sacrificed plot because it wants to be a didactic book similar to the Rainbow series by Sanchez. So that's a drawback.

The one thing I will give this book that I really liked is the concept of the alphabiography. Which is also why I'm blogging about this book now. I have decided that, in order to welcome in the new year, I'm going to blog my own alphabiography. I've been putting together alphalists. We'll see what happens. It'll probably be boring. Then again, you may find out interesting things about me. Not that you care. But I'm egotistical enough to think you do.

Oh. And I promised to drop Th. some sort of hint about where I work because Master Fob says he's been disappointed that I haven't mentioned anything of late . . . Hmm . . . I don't know what to say. So I guess I won't. Today anyway.

12 comments:

Master Fob said...

The alphabiography concept seems interesting. I'm curious to see yours.

I've found that I don't like didactic books even when they're preaching a message I agree with. It just seems like teaching a lesson shouldn't be the primary goal of literature.

And I'd just like to point out to Th. that I know where Edgy works. So ha ha.

And I'd also like to point out that the clever line at the bottom of the page should have a comma, not a semicolon. Semicolons should separate independent clauses, not an independent clause and a dependent clause. I realize I'm in dangerous territory saying such things to an editor, but I've grown brave in such things since I correctly pointed out to editorgirl that titles of paintings should be italicized, not put in quotation marks.

Th. said...

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Thanks a lot. That's a big help.

I tried doing alphabiographies with my kdis but they couldn't retain the concept in their heads for a full 24 hours and I grew tired of reexplaining it all the ... time.

Th. said...

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By the way Master Fob: you're a bastard.

(And not just for the obvious, haha reason.)

(Even if I wholeheartedly agree with you on 50% of your points.)

(I simply don't care about the other 50% of them.)

(Which makes you wrong for caring.)

(Haha.)

Master Fob said...

Th.--Do you know something about my parentage that I don't?

Edgy--I feel much better about reading your blog now that you've fixed that heinous error. And I do like the line, by the way.

Edgy said...

Master: I'm with you on the didacticism bit. Didacticism is the greatest evil of children's lit.

Th.: I'm sorry the alphabiographies didn't work with your kids. Now you have an example you could share, though I imagine it wouldn't be on the district's approved reading list. And parents would probably have your job if you even tried.

Th. said...

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I read a clip from this book in Guys Write for Guys Read and thought the book was about me. Are you sure the kid is "openly gay"--maybe he just can't fold his legs properly.

Edgy said...

GWfGR doesn't really give you a good look into the novel (though I do like the scene they've included). But, bearing in mind that he's in love with the idea of having an aunt Priscilla because the name is cool, should drop an indicator or two. And if that doesn't, then the book talks about his boyfriend. Sure, he's a secret boyfriend, but that's because of the boyfriend.

Master Fob said...

Hey! I'm reading Guys Write For Guys Read. I don't think I've gotten to the Totally Joe snippet yet, though. I'll watch for it.

Tolkien Boy said...

What does folding your legs have to do with being gay?

And that's good that James Howe is still writing...I missed the vampire bunnies...

Edgy said...

It's not the folding of his legs that makes him gay, it's the how of folding his legs that makes him gay. Apparently.

Master Fob said...

Read the excerpt in GWFGR this weekend. Now I want to read the book, even if it is didactic.

And, TB, if you don't know what folding one's legs has to do with being gay, well, you just don't know. I'm afraid nothing can be done now for your poor, lost soul.

Th. said...

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Since it's been mentioned again, I just want to say that this folding-of-legs issue caused me a lot of stress in my preteen and early teen years.