H. N. Kowitt
Ages: 9 +
Date released: July 2011
What an incredibly welcome breath of fresh air this story was! Thank you H. N. Kowitt, from the depths of my tortured reader’s soul, for proving that it is actually possible to chronicle contemporary school life in a funny and entertaining way that kids can relate to without having to resort to – shall we say – creative grammar and spelling (not that I would dare point fingers – or fingaz even – at the popular Captain Underpants or various Diaries of a Wimpy Kid). As a parent who is somewhat discerning regarding my child’s reading material, I managed to read this book from cover to cover without cringing once, and even had a few decent laughs along the way (yes, not the groanworthy kind). What’s more, reading this book has left me desperately wanting a t-shirt just like Jasper’s, which reads: “Decimals have a point.” Ok, so I am a geek, but don’t let that stop you from buying the book.
In The Loser List H. N. Kowitt opens a window into the life of 12-year-old Danny Shine as he struggles to make his way through 7th grade and find “his place” in what will be his life for the next few years at Gerald Ford Middle School. Her portrayal of the characters – the stereotypes of all kinds that we know to exist in pretty much every school environment (complete with her own illustrations) – is true to life and quickly draws the reader in. Despite being a talented artist, at school Danny finds himself in a no-mans-land (not smart enough to be a geek and not tough enough to be cool). He’s only just coming to terms with this, and trying to work out how to get noticed by the new love of his life, when a run-in with one of the school bullies over his favourite drawing pen lands him on The Loser List (aka the list of school losers maintained on a wall of the girls’ bathroom) – the potential repercussions of which could make no-mans-land seem positively appealing. When a random act of chivalry lands Danny in detention for a week with the school ruffians, he discovers that his talent as an artist might not only save him from the beating of a lifetime, but give him a foot-in-the-door to the schools most notorious gang (The Skulls). Will Danny trade the companionship and trust of his only true – but geeky – friend Jasper, for a chance to hang with The Skulls? When The Skulls get a notion of what Danny’s talents could help them achieve, will they give Danny a choice? What will Danny do? Does he ever get his girl?? Who ends up with taco meat in their hair after the life changing food fight??? For the answers to these, and a number of other questions I haven’t the space or stamina to pose, you will just have to go out and get yourself a copy of The Loser List. Lest you find yourself on that list one day!
A Bug in a Book recommended review by Scott Chambers.