Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie

Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie
Jordan Sonnenblick
Scholastic, 2004

Stephen is a normal eighth grade boy. His younger brother drives him crazy, the girl he has a crush on doesn’t know he exists, and he loves to play the drums – so much, in fact, that he is one of only two middle schoolers who have made the All-City Jazz Band.

Stephen and his younger brother have a love-hate relationship. As he states in his journal:

Having a brother is horrible. Having any brother would be horrible, I suppose, but having my particular brother, Jeffrey, is an unrelenting nightmare. It’s not because he’s eight years younger than I am, although that’s part of it. How would you like to be King of the Planet for eight glorious years, and then suddenly get demoted to Vice-King?

Even though he complains, Stephen loves Jeffrey and when an early-morning nosebleed sends Jeffrey and his mother to the emergency room, Stephen spends the day worrying. It turns out there is reason to worry – Jeffrey has cancer and only a little over a 50% chance of surviving the disease.

Immediately Stephen’s life is torn asunder. His mother and Jeffrey make repeated trips to Philadelphia for treatment, his father buries himself in his work and worries about money, and Stephen buries himself in drum practice and completely blows off his schoolwork. And then he gets a wonderful piece of advice from his guidance counselor: “Instead of agonizing about the things you can’t change, why don’t you try working on the things you CAN change?” And so he does.

I loved and adored this book. It is sad, but it’s also funny. It’s all about doing what you can, even when it seems that what you can do is but a drop in the bucket compared to the problems all around you. The characters are wonderful. I was especially glad that the character of Renee (the girl Stephen has a crush on) doesn’t turn out to be a shallow jerk but instead a good friend. And Jeffrey is cute, cute, cute – it broke my heart to read about him.

I know girls are going to love this book. I hope boys will too. I’d love to pair it with Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss, another cancer story but told from the point of view of the person with cancer.


Jen Robinson said...

I loved this book, too, Paige. It's one of my favorites. I think that Sonneblick is really great at conveying the adolescent male voice.

Paige Y. said...


Have you read any of his other books? I'd like to know if they are as good.