Jerry Spinelli is a prolific and much beloved children's book author. His books have always been sort of hit or miss with me. Loser, Crash, and 2011's Jake & Lily (my thoughts) were hits. Maniac Magee and Wringer were misses. Spinelli's new book Hokey Pokey falls in this latter category. Those are the books the Newbery committees seem to like though so what do I know? I know that I did not enjoy this book even a smidgen.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Welcome to Hokey Pokey. A
place and a time, when childhood is at its best: games to play, bikes
to ride, experiences to be had. There are no adults in Hokey Pokey, just
kids, and the laws governing Hokey Pokey are simple and finite. But
when one of the biggest kids, Jack, has his beloved bike stolen—and by a
girl, no less—his entire world, and the world of Hokey Pokey, turns to
chaos. Without his bike, Jack feels like everything has started to go
wrong. He feels different, not like himself, and he knows something is
about to change. And even more troubling he alone hears a faint train
whistle. But that's impossible: every kid knows there no trains in Hokey
Pokey, only tracks.
Jack may have been an interesting character to follow if the narrative had not shifted perspectives so much. Jubilee may have been an interesting foil for him, an intriguing enemy, if the book wasn't so hung up on its own cleverness. That was the obstacle for me. Hokey Pokey is one big symbol for the joy of childhood. Jack is growing up. The problem with this world is that are all these made up words and places and things going on that are left unexplained so there is a healthy chance that the reader will just be confused and not want to continue. I can see that happening with many young readers who come at this book. The whole story is a metaphor and when I finished it the only word on my mind was pretentious. Just as there are adults who enjoy pretentious meta works of literature, I'm sure you can find kids who will too. Probably not as many, but when you find them they may enjoy this. I think it will be a hard sell for most kids.
I read a copy of this provided by the publisher via NetGalley. Hokey Pokey will be available on January 8.