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Review: Hokey Pokey

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Looking for new books to share with your child? Check out the book review below! Each week we bring you the latest reviews of books geared toward children in grades K-5 from the creators of "Sweet on Books", a locally-based initiative with reviews written for you exclusively by mothers, as part of our ABC7 Learning Section Enjoy!

Title: Hokey Pokey

hokeypokey250 Author: Jerry Spinelli

Themes: Books for Boys, Bullying, Friendship, Good Book Club Selection, Growing Up, Self-Awareness/Discovery

Published: 2013, 304 pages

'Sweet' book summary:
Reviewer: Melissa G.

Hokey Pokey offers an incredibly unique perspective on growing up. At first, it may not be obvious. Is Hokey Pokey a real place? Are these kids riding horses or bikes? Are they bikes with horse-like qualities? But as the story moves along, enough questions are answered to reveal that Hokey Pokey isn't just any place. It is THE place and really the time, that every single person on earth can relate to, in some way, shape or form. It is childhood. You may have your own version of Hokey Pokey, but we've all been there.

In Jack's world, Hokey Pokey is a place where kids are truly free. He and his friends, LaJo and Dusty, roam Hokey Pokey from morning 'til night and then sleep where they drop. They cruise through Great Plains where the wild herds of stallion-like bikes run free. They wander through places known as Tantrums, Hippodrome, Gorilla Hill, and Snuggle Stop. Adults are non-existent except for the Hokey Pokey Man who mysteriously appears only to serve crushed ice in every flavor under the sun.

Their bikes are sacred creatures, friends stick up for each other and girls and boys are sworn enemies. There is no tomorrow. There is only today, and it is a day filled with ball games, Tarzan calls, cartoons, and bike races. Yes, there are wars fought with pretend weapons, the boys and girls call each other names and there is a bully named Destroyer who preys on young, innocent victims, but mostly this place is filled with freedom and pleasure. Oh, but there are a few basic rules:

"Never pass a puddle without stomping in it. Never go to sleep until the last minute. Never go near Forbidden Hut. Never kiss a girl."

This is the only world Jack has ever known. It is safe and familiar, and he has never considered anything beyond it, that is, until now. Everything changes on the morning that he wakes up to find that his bike, Scramjet, is missing. It turns out that Jubilee, that girl he hates, has taken it, and his immediate reaction is to round up his friends and get the bike back. But as the day goes on, Jack realizes that he has more to deal with than just a stolen bike. He isn't sure exactly what's going on, but his Hokey Pokey tattoo is fading, and he has a feeling that today may be his last one in Hokey Pokey.

Jerry Spinelli gives us something to think about, and he does it well. The writing is excellent, from the poetic language to the untraditional sentence structure and the nonsense words like "runamucking" "chuckleducking" and "hoprocks". The relationships are enlightening, especially the one between Jack and Jubilee which develops smoothly from confrontation to friendship. Although some aspects of life in Hokey Pokey are left unexplained (how does Jubilee know that Albert is her brother and what do they eat, anyway?), what is clear in the end is what Hokey Pokey is meant to represent. Getting to that point may be tough for some readers, like my son, who want things to be more straightforward ("Are they bikes or horses, mom?", he was desperate to know), but if they give Hokey Pokey a chance, this book will deliver and imaginations will soar.

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What You Need to Know:
  • This is a fantasy about the perfect place to be a child.
  • Jack's life in Hokey Pokey is all that little boys dream of, but something strange is happening, and Jack's days there seem to be numbered.
  • Readers will need to suspend disbelief and use their imaginations for this one.
  • This book is a great selection for both boys and girls.
  • Jerry Spinelli is also the author of Newbery Medal winner, Maniac Magee.
If you liked this book, try:
  • Wringer by Jerry Spinelli
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech
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