Here's a little-known personal fact: I love good stand-up comedy. When I discovered James Patterson's middle reader books about Jamie Grimm, a budding comic, I knew I had to read them--even if Jamie will never actually get to do stand-up.
Let me explain. As a result of an accident (I'll save the details for Jamie to tell), Jamie is wheelchair bound, and as he himself says:
I want to be a stand-up comic more than anything in the world--even if I don't exactly fit the job description. (p. 14)Although Jamie's life hasn't been all that funny, he uses humor to help him cope with circumstances that might otherwise be too difficult for a young teen to bear.
In both I Funny (2012) and I Even Funnier (2013), Jamie shares the ups and downs of surviving middle school. He may be in a wheelchair, but that doesn't protect him from bullies, stop him from having friends, or squelch his dreams. In fact, Jamie is just an ordinary kid.
Well, okay, he's a regular guy with a gigantic sense of humor and sharp powers of observation. The books are told from his viewpoint (that's belt buckle level, in case you were wondering), and Jamie talks about all kinds of things everyone can relate to: how to tell when a girl friend becomes a girlfriend, how to deal with being teased, the meaning of real friendship, the importance of having people believe in you, and the terror of public speaking.
Because Jamie has the chance to enter some comedy competitions, I learned a lot about how a professional hones his routine. I was fascinated with what it takes to be a stand-up comedian, from coming up with material to testing out new bits.
Humor takes many forms, and one of Jamie's secret weapons is turning it back on himself. By making his handicap the butt of some of his jokes, he helps others stop seeing the wheelchair and notice the kid in the seat. A good lesson for all of us.
Besides laughing at Jamie's jokes, I also loved the black-and-white illustrations that are found throughout the novels. The drawings bring Jamie's vivid imagination to life, and they are sure to make you smile. To get an idea of the humor, the writing style and the drawings, be sure to read the sample of I Even Funnier I've embedded below.
As you can imagine, I Funny and I Even Funnier would make fantastic book club choices for young boys and girls (and even adults!). There are so many great topics for discussion, such as family, personal hardships, friendship, and following ones dreams. If you check out author James Patterson's middle grade books website, you'll find fun activity kits and other pages that are keyed into Jamie Grimm's story.
The Giveaway: To celebrate the release of I Even Funnier (out on December 9), I'm excited to be able to offer one of my readers a copy of both Jamie Grimm books. All you have to do to have a chance to win these two James Patterson middle school books is to have a U.S. mailing address and to fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner using a random number generator on December 15. Once the winner has been confirmed, I'll erase all personal data from my computer. The book will be sent out by the publicist.
Thanks to Little, Brown for offering one of my readers a chance to win these fun, funny books. Good luck!
For more about James Patterson, be sure to like his Facebook page and follow him Twitter. For more great books for middle grade readers, like Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.