30 September 2013
Review: The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett
The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett by Tom Angleberger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
One of my favorite middle grade reads is Frindle. A story about a kid who bucks authority by calling a pen a "frindle," I always thought that the book (and most of Andrew Clements's school stories) were way more anti-authority than teachers would accept. Alas, Frindle is almost 20 years old, but The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett has come at exactly the right time to carry that torch.
The cynic in me thinks this is more an attempt to stake out a certain place in the broader debates over Common Core and standardized testing than to continue the story of Dwight and Origami Yoda, but I'm willing to forgive it because it's so well-done and so much fun. Given that the school didn't do so hot on their standardized tests, the principal has chosen to more or less eliminate electives in favor of test prep, complete with extremely hokey and poorly done videos and worksheets. The kids want their electives back, so it becomes a seesaw back and forth as the kids threaten to tank the tests, or to not improve, and the story is a war of attrition throughout without a clear conclusion.
There's a lot to like here, from putting the controversies around standardized testing in the forefront of the plot of a book a lot of kids will read, to the continually unique names of the origami Star Wars characters. The faster-than-usual pace combined with the message allows me to overlook some of the flaws and the fact that agenda-driven fictional books (especially for kids) often leave me uncomfortable.
Overall, a great addition to the series. Definitely looking forward to the next volume as well.
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