cover image I Funny: A Middle School Story

I Funny: A Middle School Story

James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, illus. by Laura Park. Little, Brown, $15.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-20693-8

The broad humor that runs throughout this heavily illustrated story from Patterson and Grabenstein masks personal pain, demonstrating resiliency in the face of tragedy. Wheelchair-bound middle-schooler Jamie has recently moved in with his aunt’s cheerless family, including—a bit too conveniently—school bully Stevie, Jamie’s new “adoptive brother.” Despite Jamie’s desire to be treated like an ordinary kid (one of the more important themes the authors emphasize) and a dark, lingering unknown (only late in the novel does Jamie reveal the reason for his paralysis and his parents’ absence), humor abounds. Much of it derives from Jamie’s comedic aspirations (he calls himself a “sit-down comic”), which are fueled by his friends’ reactions to his one-liners and the encouragement of his warmhearted uncle. Park’s wisecracking cartoons (not all seen by PW) play an integral role in the storytelling, laying bare Jamie’s fears, triumphs, and sense of humor. Not all the jokes land, but plenty do, and the value of having an author with as vast a reach as Patterson put a disabled character in the spotlight shouldn’t be underestimated. Ages 8–12. Agent: Robert Barnett at Williams & Connolly. (Dec.)