Middler Books and More

This blog contains Bruce DuBoff's book reviews, info on other media, and related topics. It is a collaboration between the librarian and both the students of Pennsauken Intermediate School and Phifer Middle School in Pennsauken, NJ, and the general middler book reading community. The books featured here are appropriate for grades 5-8, though not all books reviewed here are appropriate for all of those ages.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Do Not Pass Go by Kirkpatrick Hill (3 out of 4 stars)--
Ms. Hill’s new novel, Do Not Pass Go, features irresponsible parents, a son who overcompensates for his parents’ shortcomings, and a rundown Alaskan prison that acts as the central setting. Fortunately, the local jail in Hill’s morality tale does not house Tony Soprano, Lil’ Kim, or any other urban or gangster pseudo legends, just regular folks who made unglamorous mistakes. It is one of those mistakes that drives the plot.
Deet Aafedt loves his parents, but he is quick to acknowledge their irresponsible habits: “They spend money on things they didn’t need and sometimes didn’t have enough to buy what they did need . . . And it wasn’t just money, it was planning and organization that got messed up” (12). Deet is organized and efficient, and he quietly and competently trudges through life, protected by his friend Nelly, and inspired by his favorite English teacher and the quotations he requires his students to write about in their journals. Deet is quite self-righteous and whiny about his role as the family’s guardian and role model, so his world turns upside down when his dad, Charley, is arrested for drug possession. Now, Deet may actually have to be the man he always claims to be. He must deal with the shame and embarrassment of this situation while he comes to terms with his father making a very public mistake (instead of the private annoyances Deet can live with). As he accepts his situation and becomes more flexible and supportive, new communities and ideas open for Deet, and he suddenly realizes that there is a whole universe of experiences and people outside of his isolated Alaskan home: “Some things were invisible until they happened to you” (60). Once in the open, he surprises himself by how adaptable he can become in the face of adversity.
This novel is a gentle and effective story, but the main reason I enjoyed it is because it avoids all of the overdone, melodramatic representations of jail I see on television and in the movies regularly. In Do Not Pass Go, jail is a penalty box for regular people with common, widespread problems. Sometimes, people make mistakes, and although some of them are terrible crimes that demand severe punishments, some are less violent and less heinous. Children of those folks struggle mightily with the burden of additional responsibilities and the stigma of having a parent incarcerated. To them, and to all middle grade readers, Kirkpatrick Hill has written an effective, satisfying novel that has the capacity to generate understanding and empathy from those who have never had any contact with prison life and from those who have.


Blogger danieljamespink said...

yoooooooooooooo i heard dis book was good so ima check it out n holla @ u mr duboff peace out

kell dizzle

2:26 PM  
Blogger danieljamespink said...

yooooooooooo i jus finished da book n it was tight i like dat shizzle 4 dizzle
holla @ u later mr duboff peace out

kell dizzle

2:28 PM  

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