Peter Pan’s Neverland meets The Giver in this allegorical tale of growing up.
Jack wakes one morning to discover that his bike has been stolen. And his baseball glove. Worst of all, he knows it was stolen by his greatest enemy, the one he refers to only as “the girl.” Jack enlists his amigos Dusty and LaJo in a quest to get his bike back. Along the way in their quest, the narrative reveals more and more about this fantastic but strangely familiar-feeling place, Hokey Pokey, where these children live and play. There are wild herds of bikes, fields of toys, a giant screen that always plays cartoons, a hill of stinky socks, a stream, a jungle, and a giant mud statue of a kid. There are no adults, other than the Hokey Pokey Man, who comes with his cart each day at noon to give every child the shaved ice treat in any flavor he or she chooses. There are only a few rules: “Never pass a puddle without stomping it. Never go to sleep until the last minute. Never go near Forbidden Hut. Never kiss a girl.” As the day progresses and the pursuit continues through the goodlands and badlands of Hokey Pokey, the characters realize that there is more at stake than a bike, or even recovering their pride in the eternal war of boys versus girls. Now for Jack there is also a falling star, a train whistle no one else hears, a fading tattoo, and a yellow ribbon. What does it all mean, and why is everything starting to feel different?
This novel is an adventure, a mystery, a puzzle, a fable, and a poem. There is so much to love, but there may be a little bit of a learning curve for some readers to get used to the switching narrative viewpoints and Spinelli’s inventive and playful wordsmithery. However, once inside they will enjoy this wild, idiosyncratic childhood kingdom and the characters who inhabit it. I found this to be a refreshingly unique and complex middle grade novel, and one of the most enjoyable I’ve read in a long time. It feels like an instant classic to me.
Review by Joshua Whiting, Granite School District Electronic Resources Librarian
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 5 and Up
Author Website: www.jerryspinelli.com
Click here to view a free online excerpt of Hokey Pokey, which includes the map of Hokey Pokey, which is one of the most engaging maps found at the opening of a book that I have ever seen.
Written by Jerry Spinelli
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 8, 2013
ISBN: 9780375831980 (hardcover)