Reviews for Twerp


Booklist Reviews 2013 June #1
Sixth-grader Julian Twerski discovers a love for writing as he documents his year for a teacher who wants him to come to terms with an act of bullying on his part. Set in Queens in the author's 1960s childhood, this period piece spotlights a time when boys were independent, self-sufficient in their entertainment, and entirely unsupervised. Julian's gang, led by his best friend, Lonnie, hangs out in a vacant lot or neighborhood playground, entertaining themselves by throwing things, exploding fireworks, and ragging on each other. For Lonnie, Julian writes an admiring letter to classmate Jillian, who responds by becoming interested in Julian instead. This leads to a first date, a first broken heart, and a temporary quarrel with his pal. Meanwhile, Julian's composition entries circle around to the incident that led to his punishment. The cleverly constructed first-person narrative leads readers into sympathy with the precocious narrator, so that the reveal is a surprise and the denouement a relief. There's a fair amount of nostalgia here, which adult readers may appreciate more than teens. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2013 June
Dancing around the truth

Julian Twerski is not a bad guy. Really. That whole incident with Danley Dimple? That was a fluke. He didn’t mean for the kid to get hurt. It’s not worth going over again.

Yet, as part of his punishment, Julian has to write about it for his English teacher. From the start, he has trouble explaining the “Danley Dimple thing” and feels the need first to describe his life, his friendships—who he is. So begins Mark Goldblatt’s Twerp, an exploration of life as a 12-year-old in New York City in 1969, in the closing days of sixth grade.

We learn about the dangers of playing Cyrano for your best friend, finding out you might not be the fastest kid at P.S. 23 and making your own fireworks (with disastrous results). In fact, Julian will tell you just about anything you want to know—except for the one thing he’s supposed to be writing about. By the time he actually gets around to explaining what happened with Danley Dimple, we understand Julian, and we sympathize.

So drawn are we into Julian’s world, it’s sometimes hard to remember that an adult wrote this book. A wonderfully touching story that’s hard to put down, Twerp will appeal to readers of all ages.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Spring
Twelve-year-old Julian Twerski didn't mean for "soft in the head" Danley Dimmel to get hurt. Now that he's served his suspension, Julian's English teacher wants him to write about exactly what happened. Through the compositions, readers get to know Julian as he comes to know himself. The story, set in 1960s Queens, New York, is funny, poignant, and an effective commentary on bullying.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #5
Twelve-year-old Julian Twerski didn't mean for "soft in the head" Danley Dimmel to get hurt. He doesn't deny he was there when it happened, but it wasn't one hundred percent his fault, and maybe he could have stopped it. But now that Julian and his gang have served their week's suspension from school, Julian's English teacher, Mr. Selkirk, wants him to write about it. Exactly what happened is the elephant in the room for the rest of the novel (set in 1960s Queens, New York), as Julian does indeed write -- nine composition notebooks' worth -- about everything but Danley Dimmel. Julian tells of how he killed a pigeon and how sad he was, how he caused a car accident, how his friend Quentin burned off his eyebrows, how he was buddied up with Beverly Segal on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and how awkward it was walking past nude statues with a girl. Through the compositions, readers get to know Julian, as he comes to know himself, and though he claims to persist with the writing to get out of a book report on Julius Caesar, Julian ironically finds the meaning of life in Shakespeare. He may be a "quintessence of dust" like Hamlet, he says, but he's "a quintessence of dust with a date for Friday night." Goldblatt's debut novel for young readers is funny, poignant, and an effective commentary on bullying and its consequences and on knowing right from wrong. dean schneider Copyright 2013 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 April #1
Twelve-year-old Julian is assigned the task of keeping a journal that details the events that led up to his suspension for bullying. In an open journal to his English teacher, Julian describes life as a sixth-grader in 1969, roaming his Queens neighborhood with a close-knit group of friends. While the descriptions and dialogue evoke a previous era, the issues Julian faces are timeless topics familiar to adolescents. Initially, Julian minimizes his responsibility for what happened to "Danley Dimmel," whose real name is Stanley Stimmel. Rather than addressing what occurred, Julian recounts his various mishaps and adventures with his friends. Alternately poignant and comical, Julian's stories encompass everything from first crushes and first dates to the purpose of his existence. He struggles with the conflicting need to be part of a group, which means coasting in his best friend Lonnie's wake, and to define himself and understand his unique place in the world. Goldblatt neatly captures that transitional stage between childhood and adolescence, deftly examining the complex dynamics of friendships and skillfully portraying Julian's evolution toward self-understanding. When Julian ultimately reveals what occurred, he describes it with devastating honesty. Julian's acknowledgement of his part in the event and his decisive actions at the story's conclusion illuminate his growing maturity. Goldblatt's tale provides a thought-provoking exploration of bullying, personal integrity and self-acceptance. (Historical fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2013 November/December
This is an easy read for the middle school crowd, especially boys. Julian Twerski (aka Twerp) thinks he is getting off easy by having to write a series of journal entries instead of a report on Shakespeare. Although the entries are supposed to be about the incident that caused him to be suspended, Julian avoids the truth and writes about his life in middle school. Julian's English teacher insists he keep on writing in his journal until Julian sees he was a bully. The book includes typical middle school events such as best friend and girl problems. It also provides a great way to discuss bullying. While set in the 1960s, class discussion that it engenders might include the ways students are using technology to bully these days. This title will join classics like Bridge to Terabithia and Maniac Magee. Deborah Creamer, Media Specialist, Dinwiddie (Virginia) Middle School [Editor's Note: Available in e-book format.] HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 March #4

Adult author Goldblatt (Africa Speaks) makes his children's book debut with a coming-of-age novel set in 1969, a mix of awkward adolescent stumbling, pockets of sweetness, and oft-used tropes. Sixth-grader Julian Twerski has returned from a school suspension and accepted a deal to write a journal for his English class about what he did. As Julian avoids talking about the actual act of bullying that got him in trouble, he recounts the events of the semester in journal entries. These adventures follow the formula for the genre, ranging from uncomfortable first kisses and dates to extracurricular shenanigans (often accompanied by injuries of varied severity); an early sequence about the death of a bird is among the novel's best and most moving segments. The crucial moment of bullying, although appalling, doesn't quite live up to its buildup, and the familiar "bully forced to keep a journal" concept is somewhat clichd. Occasional cultural reference aside, the historical setting doesn't contribute a great deal to the story, but Julian's anecdotes are entertaining and Goldblatt's characters well-written. Ages 9-12. Agent: Scott Gould, RLR Associates. (May)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 July

Gr 6-8--After participating in an act of horrendous bullying, Julian is given the opportunity to atone for his action and lighten his punishment by writing a book throughout the year. What starts as meandering thoughts and stories about him hitting pigeons and chasing cars evolves into a story of self-realization. The bulk of it is given over to a tangled love triangle. When Lonnie asks Julian, a better writer, to craft a love letter from him to new-girl Jillian and sign it anonymously, she believes the amorous intentions are Julian's. The result leaves bitter feelings between two former best friends. As the story unfolds, Julian comes to identify what he feels is right, not just what his best friend tells him is so. This honest portrayal of 12-year-olds' lives does not gloss over the stupid, hurtful things people do to one another before their moral compasses become fully calibrated. Julian is different from his friends, as he is told throughout the book, but he doesn't see it until the end. In the denouement, he finally stands up and tries to make what he has done right. Not all readers will identify with the sometimes-despicable things the protagonist does, but those who identified with the antihero in Jeff Kinney's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" (Abrams) but have matured beyond the scope and gravity of that series will find a kindred spirit in Julian.--Devin Burritt, Wells Public Library, ME

[Page 80]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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