Sunday, August 25, 2013
THE SATURDAY BOY
I did scribble myself a note, however.
Then I walked into my local library, and there the book was. In the children's room, on the New Books shelf.
Miraculously the title rang a bit of a bell. I brought it home. I sat on my deck. I read all afternoon.
A perfect, funny, touching story for boys. And we all know there just aren't enough of those.
THE SATURDAY BOY has the whiz bam and superheros to keep them reading until they get hooked on the story. By the time they get to the parts that left me reading tearfully, they won't want to put the book down. But girls will also love this book. I predict they will nod in recognition about the idiotic things boys in Middle School dare to do.
Really, our hero, Derek is a kid to love. He's funny, he's different, he's got a knack for getting himself in trouble. Climbing tall trees, markers on bathroom walls--that kind of trouble. Pulling a towel out of the closet and they all topple over. Fights in the hall. In other words, big trouble and little trouble.
But Derek can seem clueless about relationships. His buddy, Budgie, is no longer his best friend. His friend who's a girl has a certain attraction. But he can't quite figure any of this out.
Just like real boys.
There's a depth to this book that's more than just mean kids and bathroom jokes. Derek's dad flies Apache helicopters in the Army. He's stationed in Afghanistan. Derek and his mom, as well as his funny, full-of-life tattoo artist aunt manage to get through the days without him. Barely.
The relationship with his dad is particularly powerful. When his former friend Budgie hears Derek's dad has written him 91 letters he says, "Your dad was like a million miles away and you still knew what he was doing and he still knew what you were doing. My dad's just down the hall and I don't think he even knows my middle name."
Sadly for Derek, Budgie is not the kind of friend who'll stand by him no matter what. But Derek eventually, mostly, figures this out. I kind of felt bad for Budgie. I hadn't thought about it before but maybe he was the way he was because otherwise he'd be one of the ones to get picked on. After all, he was what my dad once jokingly called a "target-rich environment."
Now here's a spoiler alert. Stop here if you don't want to know the sad part.
Derek's dad dies. But as far as a book about death goes, this one's head and shoulders over most I've read for middle-schoolers. Yes, it's sad. But there are so many good things to take from the way Derek and his mom handle this. There's support from his remarkable teacher. His friends are both awkward and kind. I hope David Fleming revisits these kids, or some who are equally well-drawn and interesting and fun.
Just a super book that I'm so glad I spent the afternoon with.
David Fleming's website is here: http://www.davidflemingink.com