Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Lynn: One of my tests for new book kid appeal is to leave a stack lying casually on the table and watch what the focus group picks up.  Stuck (Penguin/Philomel 2011) passed the first test with high marks as the focus group grabbed it right away.  It quickly passed all our other tests too and I’m guessing this nutty book will make the Focus Group’s Top Ten this year.

In a Charlie Brown moment, a small boy’s kite gets caught in a tree and it is completely stuck. Then the trouble really begins.  Floyd throws his shoe up into the tree and that gets stuck too.  Here the book takes on an old-woman-who-swallowed-the-fly feel as Floyd tries throwing everything he can get his hands on at the tree only to watch those things get stuck too:  a cat, a paint bucket, a ladder.  Each item gets progressively larger until an ocean liner, a rhinoceros, a house and a lighthouse all end up in the tree!  When the fire department comes along the firemen and the firetruck join the arboreal crowd.  Finally Floyd gets an idea that works and voila, down comes his kite, which he happily runs off to play with, leaving everything else still stuck in the tree.  It is only when he is in bed that night that Floyd thinks that, hmmm,  maybe he is forgetting something!

The giggles escalated with every absurd page turn and the focus group loved the set-up jokes as Floyd does something unexpected with items like ladders and saws.  The illustrations are created to resemble a child’s drawings while skillfully providing really funny details with the simple lines.  Let me just say that Floyd’s single-minded focus on his kite at the end was the perfect touch!  I know three small boys who could ignore an entire rock band materializing beside them!  This is probably best suited to kids K-3rd grades as the humor is a little more sophisticated.  We all give this one an enthusiastic thumbs up!

Cindy: I think I first read this during a stressful morning and was not initially as enamored as Lynn and the boys were with its charms. Perhaps I was jealous of the boy’s ability to ignore all of the stuck items to frolic off to play with his kite. I was having a day where my looming to do list, my pile of unread books and student and staff demands were too much. Perhaps I was remembering the first flight with a new fanny-pack kite that the Easter Bunny had delivered to my children one windy April morning years ago. My intrepid husband grabbed the kite from our daughters’ hands and said, “Let me show you how to do it.” He promptly got it stuck in our tall oak hammock tree in the back yard and I’ve watched the bright nylon taunt me from those branches for 15 years as the colors faded along with our chances to take that kite with us on fun excursions. But Lynn and the boys are right about this one. Reading it again this morning, on my first day of a two-week vacation, I am able to laugh along with the absurd fun and the charming illustrations. Don’t let my curmudgeonly ways deter you from this story that children will be stuck on. I think I’ll pour some eggnog, ignore the shopping, wrapping, and baking and put my feet up and read this again.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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