Building friendship through lizarding-catching

  Minn and Jake, by Janet S. Wong (2003)

This week is poetry week in Children’s Lit! I was excited to see an atypical selection on the reading list, a novel written in verse. While this format has been made famous in the YA section with books like those in the Crank series by Ellen Hopkins, I haven’t seen much of this for younger readers yet. (Granted, Minn and Jake is 8 years old, so maybe I’m just unaware.)

Here is a story of two ten year olds, one girl who’s way too tall and one boy who’s way too short, both of whom are struggling to find someone to trust amidst their gossipy fifth grade class.  More than anything, Minn loves catching and observing lizards at The Screep, and while Jake just wishes he could move back to L.A. where he has friends who don’t stare at him or mock him for his height. When Minn and Jake get shoved together at the hands of their parents, the city-boy and the lizard-girl seem to be the last two people to form a friendship. But lo and behold, they find that each can teach the other something new, and maybe even save each other from loneliness.

I can imagine what this book would be like as a classic prose novel, and I don’t think it would carry as much charm and authenticity as it does in its current state. It brought me straight back to life in the fifth grade, and all the joy, fear, bonding, fascination, and isolation that accompanies it.

2 stars.

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One thought on “Building friendship through lizarding-catching

  1. Ooh, I love novels in verse! Seems that we used to have this one at King, but alas, it is lost. A recent favorite of mine is The Dancing Pancake by Eileen Spinelli – I handed it to a 3rd grade girl who’s a voracious reader and she came back the next week glowing. Love those poetry novels!

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