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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jasper John Dooley, written by Caroline Adderson and illustrated by Ben Clanton. Kids Can Press, 2012-2015. $16.95

"Jasper was surprised that Ori was late. Ori lived across the alley and one house down from Jasper. Jasper lived closest to the school, and Ori the second closest. Ori never got the lates the way Jasper did. Jasper got the lates about twice a week, even though he lived just one block away. But not today. Today Jasper was the Star ..."

I started reading this bright and funny series on the recommendation of my friend Jane who loves them, as do the kids in the school where she is an enthusiastic and informed teacher-librarian. There are four so far, and I will hold out hope that there will be at least four more ... or many more than that! I love it when a series works so well!

Jasper is a force to be reckoned with ... in the first, it's finally his turn to be Star of the Week! It has meant long endless days of barely contained enthusiasm for the world that will be his for a whole week. His relish for the job at hand may not meet up to those lofty expectations. Jasper rarely lets anything get him down. His best friend Ori has a new sister, and she is a real distraction from Jasper's celebration for the week at school. In fact, because of Plum (so named for the color she turns as she wails night and day), Jasper finds himself longing for a sibling. His parents are not so gung-ho about his request. So, he builds his own.

The dialogue is wonderful, the humor made me laugh out loud. The black-and-white illustrations are a perfect complement to the text that is sure to encourage those young readers wanting to branch out into a chapter book format. Jasper is so charming and real that they will be glad to share his everyday ups and downs. Then, they will reach for the next book in the series ... Jasper John Dooley: Left Behind.

In the second book we learn how much Jasper loves his Nan, and feel his pain when she goes on a week-long cruise. He likes that he spends Wednesdays with her. She picks him up from school. They do things together that make him happy, not the least of which is playing Go Fish for jujubes. While she is gone and Jasper is pining her absence, he becomes entangled in a series of unusual 'doings' ...
a story stapled to his stomach, trying to build an exact replica of Nan's cruise ship from unused lumber, dealing with a bossy friend, taking the class hamster home for the weekend and losing it. His life is impossible without Nan in it. Has a week ever lasted so long?  You will be smiling as you pick up Book 3: Not In Love!

Jasper and Ori have often played 'babies' for Isabel and Zoe; they only do it when the rewards are worthwhile treats at the end of the embarrassing play. The girls are persistent, especially Isabel who has her eye set on marrying Jasper. To that end, she has their mothers arrange a playdate. Jasper is not impressed, but reluctantly attends. Once there, Jasper is surprised that Isabel doesn't want to just sit around brushing his hair. She has a TRAMPOLINE! Jasper is bewitched by it, and that transfers into his thinking he might be as  'in love' with Isabel as she is with him. He realizes he is mistaken and asks advice of his Nan. In a series of plans gone awry in response to Isabel's attention, Jasper is finally able to take control and looks to Ori for all the friendship he really needs! Now, we are on to Jasper's newest escapade: You're In Trouble.

Bad is the name of the game for Jasper and trouble is his middle name in the latest addition to the series. Following a soccer practice, Jasper he uses the change his father has given him to buy a drink from the nearby vending machine. With the machine beeping and flashing instructions, he mistakenly selects a BAD of those power drinks filled with sugar and a whole lot of caffeine. He knows he has done wrong, and hides the fact from his father. Taking little sips before they head home, then saving the rest of it at the back of the fridge in hopes that it won't be discovered, means that he is able to drink from the can for few days in a row! Each time, he is like the Energizer bunny gone wrong and is quite delighted by the BAD choices he makes about what underwear to wear, riding his bike too fast, tickling soccer players during game play. It is pretty embarrassing. It is also hilariously funny for those reading his story. Ori tries to intervene with good food meant to lessen the effects of all that sugar. Jasper can't eat it ... he hates celery! There are consequences; luckily they are not long lasting.

Engaging characters, pitch-perfect dialogue, humorous everyday experiences ... this series has everything to attract young readers. Perfect for those wanting to read more complex text on their own, and absolutely wonderful to read aloud to your family or your students. Bring on #5, please!

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