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

Larry The King of Rock and Roll by Iris Rainer Dart and Joyce Brotman (3 out of 4 stars)--
Larry is a white Maltese who belongs to ten-year-old Cathy and her songwriter father, Tom. Cathy’s parents have separated, and like many things yet to come in this novel (and in life), she does not understand it: “But my mom and dad like each other a lot. I can tell. They like to do the same things . . . They just don’t go together anymore” (8). When she discovers that her dog can talk, write and sing, she is even more confused. But Larry knows exactly what he wants: to be a star. He finishes writing a song Tom had been working on, and the tune becomes a hit. Tom is reluctant to perform in big concert halls, but Larry is persistent. They do perform, and while the down-to-earth Tom understands the impermanent nature of the entertainment industry, Larry flies high as a star. Unfortunately, Cathy gets caught in the power play between dog and dad, and when her mom informs her that she plans to marry a man who does not love dogs, Cathy becomes sadder and more confused. Meanwhile, not everyone is happy with Larry’s stardom, and the canine star receives an anonymous threat in a piece of fan mail: “We’re watching you, Larry. And we sure don’t like what we see. Be careful. We’re not going to put up with you much longer” (77). In true arrogant diva fashion, Larry ignores the threats and continues to pout and whine his way to the top.
This light novel works for many reasons. It is written at a reading level that is accessible to all of the middle grades (5-8) and it is a fun story that readers can appreciate and enjoy. Anyone even remotely familiar with Britney, Christina, Ashlee, etc. will immediately recognize the setting. It also sends the very positive and overlooked message that stardom is a two-edged sword that cuts far more than it shines. Any young people who plan to grow up to be multi-million dollar rap stars might want to read about the plight of Larry, an ignorant and overeager pawn of the media and the trappings of success. Young MTVers think they know about the rewards of stardom, but the dark and more realistic side of success, the threat of growing apart from friends and family, is presented appropriately. Alternating narration between Larry and Cathy is simple but effective, because readers can best appreciate Larry’s ego and selfishness in his own voice. The characterization in the fun novel Larry The King of Rock and Roll by Iris Rainer Dart and Joyce Brotman is a bit thin, and the plot is somewhat formulaic, but in this context, those qualities do not detract from the message of the novel, they actually make it clearer and more accessible to a wide range of readers.


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