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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jake and Lily, written by Jerry Spinelli. Balzer & Bray, Harper. 2012. $17.99 ages 8 and up

"Our knees buckled. Burke let out one quick snort bomb, but the rest of us did a pretty good job of swallowing the laughs. For a good reason. When a goober says something totally hilarious, you naturally want to bust out laughing. But if you're smart, you make sure to hold it in and keep paying attention, because while you're busy laughing you might miss the next gem that comes along."

When I started reading Jerry Spinelli's new novel about twins Jake and Lily I wasn't sure that I was going to like it as much as I had come to expect with his writing. I was so wrong!

Jake and Lily have what they call 'goombla'. My guess is that most twins know about this special sense that they seem to know when the other is in trouble, or sick, orwhat they are thinking. Now, at age 11, the 'goombla' seems to be unravelling. Jake, the calm and logical one, is striking out and making new friendships. He likes being with those boys from his school who ride bikes, stalk 'goobers' and make themselves a bit of a nuisance. Lily misses her brother's constant company and is quick to complain about it. She is the more boisterous and opinionated of the two and she does not mind complaining about these new changes to their relationship. She is feeling abandoned and brings her problems to recently returned grandfather, Poppy.

As Jake fills his days with adventure, Lily seeks new interests with the wise and patient advice of Poppy. Nothing seems to be what she needs. For Jake, his meeting and subsequent unsettled relationship with a true 'goober' Soop leads him to new discoveries about himself and those he now considers his friends. He learns an enlightening lesson about himself and about Soop, a new and admirable friend.

Jerry Spinelli is a masterful storyteller and here he proves it again! I am so glad that I read this book and became acquainted with Jake, Lily and their story told in both voices. It is emotional, and causes the twins and the reader to think introspectively about the ways in which people treat each other as they mature. It is evident in so many ways and will offer much opportunity for discussion.

Poppy helps Lily come to terms with the changes in the life she has shared with her brother; Soop helps Jake comes to terms with the type of person he really wants to be. Over the course of the story, readers see both perspectives through the two voices shared. It is a wonderful way to explore the development of middle grade characters, their foibles, their strengths, and the uncertainties of growing up. It does not move too quickly; that allows readers to take in every aspect of their story and enjoy the humor and honesty that the twins experience as they move toward their twelfth birthday.

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