cover image Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey

Jerry Spinelli. Knopf, $15.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-375-83198-0

Spinelli (Jake and Lily) creates a surreal landscape reminiscent of J.M. Barrie’s Never Land in this poignant celebration of childhood exuberance. Don’t bother looking for adults in Hokey Pokey, where boys and girls dine on flavored ice and spend their days watching cartoons, playing cowboy games, and using their bicycles as trusty steeds. Jack’s bike, Scramjet, is the most coveted of all, and one day it’s stolen by his archenemy, Jubilee. This marks the first of a series of unsettling events that give Jack, a boy on the brink of adolescence, the eerie impression that “things have shifted.” It isn’t just that his tattoo, the mark of all residents, is fading; something deep inside him is pulling him away from familiar landmarks, friends, enemies, and routines. Spinelli’s story will set imaginations spinning and keep readers guessing about Jack’s fate and what Hokey Pokey is all about (so to speak). The ending is both inevitable and a risk (it invokes one of the more clichéd tropes in literature and film), but Spinelli’s dizzying portrait of life in Hokey Pokey will keep readers rapt. Ages 10–up. (Jan.)