I first discovered Jordan Sonnenblick when I read After, Ever After. As soon as I finished I dug back into my box of books to look for Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie (Scholastic 2004) so I could learn the story of Jeffrey’s big brother Steven. I was horrified when I couldn’t find it and couldn’t remember who I had lent it to before I read it myself. Then this week, my daughter dug it out of her room and returned it to me. Mystery solved! I was not disappointed.
Steven has it pretty good as he starts 8th grade. He is one of two middle schoolers in the All-City Jazz Band where he rocks out on drums. He has a crush on Renee, the hottest girl in school, and enjoys hanging with his best friend and pianist Annette–at least when she’s not being nosy and nagging him to do his homework. He even tolerates his too-cute and oh-so-annoying little brother Jeffrey.
Then Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia, and Jeffrey’s world falls into shambles. His mom spends night after night away from home in the hospital with Jeffrey while his dad shuts down and stops talking to him at all. At school, Steven pretends that everything is fine, except for the fact he just quits doing his homework and dazes out class. Eventually it will all blow up, and no one, not even Steven, can know where all the pieces will fall.
My daughter asked me when she was done, “Do guys really think like that?” Having only taught and not been a middle school boy, I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that Sonnenblick gets inside the mind of with stunning accuracy. After all, he was one. He also gets us inside the mind of life of Steven with humor and compassion. I can’t wait to share this one with my students–and check out his latest offering, Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip.