Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Review: B.U.G. (Big Ugly Guy) by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple (Dutton Juvenile, 2013)

Recommended for ages 8-12.

There doesn't seem to be a genre of children's literature that Jane Yolen is not a master of. She has published over 300 books, from endearing picture books such as the best-selling dinosaur series with illustrator Mark Teague (including How do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon and many others) to serious historical fiction about the Holocaust such as The Devil's Arithmetic.  She has won countless awards, and is beloved by parents, children, librarians, and teachers alike.  

In this new book for a middle-grade audience, Yolen and co-author Adam Stemple (also Yolen's son) address the theme of bullying in a unique way. Our hero, Sammy Greenburg, is a nerd with no friends--at least until he meets a new student known as Skink. While trying to outsmart the local bullies, the two form a unique band that plays klezmer/jazz/pop/rock fusion, and who should join them but the cutest girl in their class, Julia (and Sammy's secret crush). But when the school bullies beat up Skink for humiliating them in the cafeteria, Sammy decides he needs more help to defend himself and his friend.  Coincidentally, Sammy is studying for his bar mitzvah, and in the rabbi's study sees a book on golems, a mythical Jewish Frankenstein-type monster. Sammy can't resist "borrowing" the book, without the rabbi's permission. 

Fortunately for Sammy, his dad is a sculptor, so Sammy has access to great quantitites of clay from which to sculpt the golem.  But can he bring him to life?  As you might have guessed, the answer is YES, and Sammy is thrilled when the golem goes to school with him and even becomes the drummer in their band. But too much power can be as much of a problem as being powerless--can the Golem be controlled or will he have to be destroyed? An original take on bullying, this is a terrific novel that could be enjoyed by boys or girls.  And who can resist a klezmer/drum-playing golem???

And for more on golems, don't forget the stunning 1997 Caldecott winning picture book, Golem, by the late David Wisniewski, which retells the traditional legend about the golem created by the Rabbi of Prague in the 16th century to protect the Jews of the city.

1 comment:

PragmaticMom said...

Wow, what a unique and interesting plot. And so interesting that she's now writing books with her son and daughter. Did you read Bad Girls, the book she wrote with Heidi Stemple? I guess she's passing the torch!