After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick

For the past few years I have enjoyed reading Jordan Sonnenblick’s Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie to my classes. I love Sonnenblick’s voice and I think he captures carious middle school personalities perfectly. Plus, he deals with a serious subject (cancer) in a down-to-earth way. His book always makes my students laugh but without fail their final words are, “is there a sequel?!” For the past few years I have always had to break the bad news to them that no, there was no sequel. Well imagine my excitement when I read that After Ever After would be published this month!

WARNING! This review will contain spoilers for Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie.  If you haven’t read that one yet, get up right now and get yourself to a library or bookstore.  It’s a fantastic read and one very middle school teacher should be familiar with.

After Ever After is everything I wanted and more. Where Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie told the story of Jeffrey’s cancer through his older brother Steven’s eyes, After Ever After is told from Jeffrey’s point of view. Now in eighth grade, he is no longer the kid with cancer. Instead, he is a teenager in remission. Thanks to the chemo and methotrexate, he walks with a limp and has problems focusing in school. Steven, the one person he can always count on to be there for him, has dropped out of college, dumped Annette, and run off to Africa to join an African drum circle. Meanwhile, Jeffrey is dealing with his first girlfriend (the hottest girl in school!), an increasingly grumpy best friend, and his parents flipping out over a new standardized test that he must pass in order to move on to high school.

I can not wait to booktalk this to my class. Again, it deals with some serious topics like cancer, life, and death, but it does it with deference and laughter. I found myself laughing out loud many times and cringing at others. Jeffrey is a typical middle school boy, even if he is a cancer survivor. He has no idea what to say to the girl he likes, he makes bad “your mom jokes”, and he is convinced his dad hates him.  He is self-deprecating but does not pity himself.  He has baggage, but he tries to ensure it doesn’t define him.

I also loved After Ever After feels like it can stand alone.  One doesn’t need to read Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie in order to enjoy After Ever After.  While the two books are a great pair, and reading one will make you want to read the other, they both stand well on their own.  That’s the sign of a fantastic pair of books.

(And for any teachers out there, Jeffrey’s struggles with standardized testing will rile you up something fierce!  Plus, Miss Palma is an awesome English teacher!)

*ARC courtesy of the publisher


Dodger and Me by Jordan Sonnenblick

Dodger and Me is about Willie Ryan.  You see, Willie is not the most popular kid in 5th grade.  In fact, he might even be the least popular.  His baseball team calls him Wimpy, his best friend moved away a few months ago, and stupid Lizzie (from England) won’t stop following him around.  Oh, and Lizzie is constantly embarrassing him by cheering at his baseball games.  To make it worse, she says all the wrong things!  Plus, Willie’s mom treats him like a complete baby and is the queen of safety.  But all that begins to change when he gets his very own magical blue chimp wearing an eye patch and orange Bermuda shorts.  Dodger suddenly appears out of what he refers to as a lamp and what Willie is convinced is a broken teapot.

Willie already knows he is pathetic and he doesn’t really need a giant blue chimp to follow him around and constantly remind him of his loser status.  However, once Dodger enters his life, nothing is ever the same.  The question is, is that a good or bad thing?

This is a great book for middle grade readers, especially boys.  It’s silly without being over-the-top.  Willie is easy to relate to and is a pretty typical 5th grade boy.  And who doesn’t dream of having a goofy blue chimp around to grant their wishes?  Sonnenblick has always been a favorite of mine for his older middle grade/young adult novels.  But he clearly knows younger elementary kids just as well as he knows middle schoolers.  I predict this will be a hit with my kids!