Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reviewing children's books: Sasquatch in the Paint, or From Nerd to Jock

I just finished reading the upcoming children's book, Sasquatch in the Paint, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld. I was given an advanced e-reader's copy, and I can never resist a children's story.

I was looking forward to reading about a boy's life in a book written by two men, hoping for some insights into the male child's psyche. I read the book quickly, even though it was full of b-ball jargon; it is a tale of a nerd gone jock. In fact, I think it was a little heavy on the sports talk, but I am not a twelve year old boy, so who knows. Here is my take on the story.

Pros: It was very easy to imagine the three main boys' feelings, to get inside their skin, so to speak. And  some of those feelings arose from the absence of mothers. A passage that revolved around egg whites was especially touching, with one parent learning to fill the hole left by the other, and the feelings of retrospective gratitude.

The pretty convincing theme of the book seemed to be the change in three boys that led them from their past selves to selves who were more responsible and hopeful. This was pulled off well.

Cons: The main issue with the book, probably not surprisingly, is that the female characters lack depth or credibility. The main female character is too much of a mystery, a perfect cool girl, who knows basketball, knows huge amounts of trivia valued by the boys around her, and expresses overly mature motivations.

The main villain in the book is also fairly inexplicable. No one understands her, least of all the reader.

Final criticism of the book is of the excessively, pointlessly, scooby-doo resolution of the mystery portion of the novel. It really didn't need to be there for the story to work.

Overall, I would say this novel might be a good read for a twelve or thirteen year old kid, especially a boy, who might be wondering what adulthood will look like, and how their internal landscape will change to fit what the world wants of them. It could help them get a better grip on positive ways to take charge of their own development.  

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