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Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee (Elem/ MG)
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proseandkahn
 
Illustrated by Dan Santat. 170 p. Arthur A. Levine/ Scholastic, September, 2009.

All I can say is, omg! I can't believe this has been sitting on my tbr pile for over a year! I was reorganizing my book shelves a week or so back when my spring break got rained out. I found this buried in it; pulled it out and pushed it to the top of the pile. My tbr "pile" fills four book shelf units. One time I tried to count them and stopped counting/ lost track after 300. I am that bad. (And, yeah, I bought books this week.)

Anyway. I've been a Lisa Yee fan ever since I read So Totally Emily Ebers, Millicent Min, Girl Genius and Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time. They weren't written in that order. That's the way I read them. And, it was okay to read them that way because the three talk about their friendship, each from their own perspective. Oh. But, this is a review of Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally).

Nine-year-old Bobby Eliis-Chan is entering fourth grade. It's going to be a big year for him. Among other things, he gets to walk to school by himself. Well, not strictly by himself. He'll be walking with his bff, Holly Harper, only they will split up a block or so from school and pretend that they don't know each other. It has been an unspoken rule since the end of the third grade, when she started hanging out with Jillian Zarr and turning into a ... girl. 

He also has a little dynamo of a sister named Casey and a famous father. He's embarrassingly famous for two reasons: he used to be a pro-football player, whose nickname was "the Freezer," so everywhere he goes, people who recognize him yell, "Freeze!" He's also a stay-at-home dad who is famous for his notoriously bad cooking and baking. As if that weren't enough, he has asthma and an unfulfilled desire for a dog due to that asthma. When Holly wins a goldfish at a carnival using Bobby's money, she gives Bobby the goldfish as a present and even though he thinks a goldfish is kind of a lame pet because, well, it's a fish and the they don't do anything, Bobby becomes attached.

As if all of the above were not enough, throw in a student council representative campaign, a class trip and hair curlers and you've got yourself one laugh-out-loud read. Attention fourth grade teachers everywhere: Read This One Out Loud the first week of school. Then, read the sequel, Bobby the Brave, Sometimes, which takes place over the month of October, during the first week of October. (I know, I know! I haven't read it yet; but, trust me.) I believe that Ms. Yee plans a book for each month of fourth grade. Just think, if you're a fourth grade teacher for 10 years, your read aloud library can mirror your own year.

Anyone who thinks the humor and situations in this book are over-the-top has not spent much time around fourth graders. There is so much heart in this book, in Bobby and his friends and family. The energetic black, white and grey illustrations by Dan Santat perfectly capture Bobby and his world. One of my favorite illustrations is a piece of spot art in which Bobby is undergoing a nebulizer treatment and doesn't have the strength to fight off his little sister, Casey, who puts his hair in pink curlers. In addition to perfectly capturing that ridiculous moment, I had a deja-vu feeling. One of my sons is asthmatic and although he didn't have a little sister who put curlers in his hair, he often looked like Bobby during his treatments.

Here's a photo of my son and a scan of the art:
 
Didn't Dan Santat nail it?

I love this series. Yee's creates great MG characters. And yes Santat did get it spot on.

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