Monday, December 4, 2017

Waylon - One Awesome thing by Sara Pennypacker illustrated by Marla Frazee

"No wonder he blurted things out.  This world was so amazing, how could anyone hold it all in?"

I enjoy saying the name Pennypacker  it seems perfect for an author of quirky little chapter books.  Have you met Clementine? Waylon is in her class and this book is his story.

In this time when we are focusing on STEM  - Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths - Waylon is a book and a character you need to meet.  He adores science and uses his knowledge to solve problems.  Right now his problem is with school friendships but this might not have such an easy science solution.

The class cool kid Arlo has set up a gang which he calls The Shark Punchers.  Waylon does not see any point to this.  He has friends in both groups.  Perhaps he can be an isthmus - a bridge between both groups.  Actually he needs to be an isthmus between his parents and his sister too and also find a way to reach the new boy Baxter Boylen - a boy who everyone, teachers and kids, is afraid of.

His sister is called Charlotte Bronte Zakowski (dad is a writer hence the famous name) but she has decided to change her style, personality and name to Neon. She "had undergone a complete metamorphosis. Instead of spinning a chrysalis around her, she had walked into her bedroom and painted it black."  Neon no longer talks to her family and Waylon misses the games they used to play.

The new kid, Baxter is both scary and fascinating.  He arrives with a 'beard' and a scar.  He seems to know a lot about the police. The rumor is he has been in jail but it is Waylon who discovers the truth.

While all of this is going on Waylon is also grappling with his own new feelings :

"Recently, a strange thing had been happening, and it was happening now. The strange thing was : he imagined how he appeared to others. As though he was outside his body."

"Seeing himself from the outside made Waylon feel dangerously sheer, as if he were a hologram instead of a solid boy."

There are some really funny moments in this story.  Waylon asks his dad for advice with the gangs at school.  "In galactic time, his father wasn't that much older than he was - only about thirty years. But in terms of helping with fourth grade problems, he might as well be from the Jurassic Period."

The truly heart warming part of this story comes when Waylon meets a dog, called Dumpster Eddy, who being held at the police station. Baxter and Waylon need to work out a way to save this dog because he is on death row and, in doing so, members of both class gangs really need to pull together.

"Eddy locked his gaze on Waylon's. And suddenly there were no bars between them. There was no boy skin; there was no dog fur. Waylon and Dumpster Eddy grokked each other's souls ... "  Grokking is a "science fiction term that meant to connect with something so totally that you practically merged with it." At the end of One Awesome thing the stage is set for the sequel.  Luckily my copy had a chapter sample so I know Waylon and Baxter will continue to look for ways to save the life of Dumpster Eddy.

I would follow Wayon with The Dunderheads and the Stuart books also by Sara Pennypacker.  You might also pick up One dog and his Boy by Eva Ibbotson.  Sara Pennypacker is also the author of a wonderful book for older readers called Pax.

In Pennypacker’s skillful hands, Waylon is an appealing every kid whose passion for science just might spark readers’ curiosity as he contemplates ideas from angstroms to alien hand syndrome.  School Library Journal

An upbeat celebration of lively imagination, friendship, family, community, and the exuberance of childhood. Kirkus

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