Literary Celebrity Guest Review: The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson, reviewed by Tom Angleberger, 208 pp, RL 4

 The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson

There is a certain something to some books that can only be described as magic.

It may exist in adult books, but is very rarely sighted there. No, it more often haunts those bookshelves we have labelled J-Fic or mid-grade or even "kidlit." (Although it's really a shame to hide these books from adults, who, surely, deserve some magic, too.)

Not that it's easy to find even in the J-Fic...

There are plenty of poetic, lyrical, perfect masterpieces that don't have a drop of it. You finish one of those books in disbelief. Surely, it was in there somewhere! Did you miss it amongst the piles of metaphors and similes? Maybe it was buried under the research?

But then sometimes there are odd, shambling shipwrecks of prose that do have it. Or sometimes a book will seem to contain the magic by accident or maybe even in spite of the author.

And then there are books both lyrical and magical! And the research lifts it all up rather than weighing it down! Together the words and the story and the facts and feelings all ring true. And it's perfect... so perfect!

You read it and you're in love with the book and the characters and you can actually hold on to that feeling of magic!

You can't wait for everyone else to fall in love, too! The starred reviews! The twitter buzz! The Newbery buzz! The Newbery itself.... or at least an honor!!! 

And then, the knowledge that this book will be on the library shelves for years and years for kids to find the magic. Maybe even a kid who really really needs it.

.... and then.... and then.... and then it doesn't work out that way.

There's a lack of buzz. The book doesn't seem to be getting read at all. Don't worry, the Newbery comittee will save it. Nope! They don't. Wait... what?

But nobody waits. It's too late. Everybody's in such an all-fired hurry to read the next ding dang ARC! Even the author of the book in question is gearing up to promote their next book...

NO! Wait, everybody! I mean it! Don't go! Don't move on.
Not yet.
Not until you've read, The Friendship Doll.

This isn't a drop of magic; this is a whole bookful! I fell for it hard in the opening pages. I was crying by the end of the prelude. And then each of the variations got me, too. Together they add up to a book I place on that exalted shelf with The Secret Garden and A Little Princess.

Wait a minute, aren't all of these GIRL BOOKS? Of course, not! It may be tough to get a boy to read a book with garden, princess or doll in the title -- or worse ON THE COVER -- but boys that are afraid of such things are going to miss out on a lot of magic through their lives.

How is a doll any different from, say, a origami Yoda puppet? In fact, this is at heart the same story I am telling in Origami Yoda. An inanimate object seems to be giving the right advice at the right time to the right kid. But, Kirby Larson takes the idea in and spins an entirely different sort of book out of it. A book thatwill break your heart and mend it and fill it.

It's a book I'm so glad I read... and I wish you would, too.

About Tom Angleberer:

While Tom Angleberger insists that he is not "particularly interested in forcing you to hear about me," he was getting so many requests from kids writing book reports about his books to talk about himself that he created this bio:

Tom Angleberger NOT Anglebooger!!!!!!!!
Age: secret
Birthday: Oct. 24
Location: secret
Toothpaste: secret
Home state: Virginia
Security Clearance: AlphaShadow1
Pen of Choice: Pilot G2 gel roller! 1.0 used for everyday doodling, .7 used for illustrating the Origami Yoda books.
Previous occupations: newspaper reporter and columnist, juggler, weed boy, lawn mower part assembler, biology research assistant (bug larvae and plant diseases)
Current occupation: author and illustrator, keeper of (with Webmaster Sam)
First novel: Begun in 8th grade, never completed.
Published or about to be published novels: Qwikpick, Stonewall, Origami Yoda, Horton Halfpott, Darth Paper, Fake Mustache, Secret of the [[top secret]].
Spouse: author and illustrator Cece Bell!
Tom sez: “I’m not necessarily all that creative. I’m more of a puzzle putter together. I take all these little puzzle pieces — Yoda, middle school problems, Cheetos — and I fuss and fuss with them until I fit them together.”
Inspirations: Star Wars, Fumiaki Kawahata, Daniel Pinkwater, my own personal social disasters…
SuperPower: Aspergers!

Tom's Books:
The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda
(For my review, click here!)

In this funny, uncannily wise portrait of the dynamics of a sixth-grade class and of the greatness that sometimes comes in unlikely packages, Dwight, a loser, talks to his classmates via an origami finger puppet of Yoda. If that weren’t strange enough, the puppet is uncannily wise and prescient. Origami Yoda predicts the date of a pop quiz, guesses who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and saves a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice. Dwight’s classmate Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, he assembles the case file that forms this novel.

Darth Paper Strikes Back

It is a dark time at Ralph McQuarrie Middle School. After suffering several Origami Yoda–related humiliations, Harvey manages to get Dwight suspended from school for being a “troublemaker.” Origami Yoda pleads with Tommy and Kellen to save Dwight by making a new case file—one that will show how Dwight’s presence benefits McQuarrie. With the help of their friends, Tommy and Kellen record cases such as “Origami Yoda and the Pre-eaten Wiener,” “Origami Yoda and the Exploding Pizza Bagels,” and “Origami Yoda andWonderland: The Musical.” But Harvey and his Darth Paper puppet have a secret plan that could make Dwight’s suspension permanent . . .

The Secret of the Fortune Wookie

With Dwight attending Tippett Academy this semester, the kids of McQuarrie Middle School are on their own—no Origami Yoda to give advice and help them navigate the treacherous waters of middle school. Then Sara gets a gift she says is from Dwight—a paper fortune-teller in the form of Chewbacca. It’s a Fortune Wookiee, and it seems to give advice that’s just as good as Yoda’s—even if, in the hands of the girls, it seems too preoccupied with romance. In the meantime, Dwight is fitting in a little too well at Tippett. Has the unimaginable happened? Has Dwight become normal? It’s up to his old friends at McQuarrie to remind their kooky friend that it’s in his weirdness that his greatness lies.

  Art2-D2's Guide to Folding and Doodling

Stick figures to the dark side only lead! To doodle like a Jedi you must learn! With this companion to the blockbuster bestselling Origami Yoda series, beloved author Tom Angleberger—with the help of the kids from McQuarrie Middle School—presents young Padawans with dozens of activities from the Star Wars universe. Padawans can learn how to fold R2-D2 and C-3PO, draw Jabba, and even build a fully functioning ChapStick rocket! Other Force-mastering activities include: “Kellen’s Guide to Cool Letters,” “Mike’s Complete Rules and Tips for Pencil Pod-Racing,” “Rhondella’s Tips for Photographing Origami,” and much more!

 The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett 

Dark times have fallen on McQuarrie Middle School. Dwight’s back—and not a moment too soon, as the gang faces the FunTime Menace: a new educational program designed to raise students’ standardized test scores. Instead, it’s driving everyone crazy with its obnoxious videos of Professor FunTime and his insidious singing calculator! When Principal Rabbski cancels the students’ field trip—along with art, music, and LEGO classes—to make time for FunTime, the students turn to Origami Yoda for help. But some crises are too big for Origami Yoda to handle alone: Form a Rebel Alliance the students must. United, can they defeat the FunTime Menace and cope with a surprise attack from Jabba the Puppett?

 Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue (coming March 4, 2014)

At McQuarrie Middle School, the war against the FunTime Menace—aka test prep—wages on. Our heroes have one battle under their belts, and they’ve even found a surprising ally in Jabba the Puppett. But to defeat the Dark Standardized Testing Forces they’re going to need an even bigger, even more surprising ally: Principal Rabbski. But with great forces—aka the school board—pushing her from above, will the gang’s former enemy don a finger puppet and join the Rebellion—or will her transformation to Empress Rabbski, Dark Lord of the Sith, be complete?

Also by Tom . . .

Horton Halfpott; Or, the Fiendsih Mystery of Smugwick Maonr; or, The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset
(For my review, click here!)
When M'Lady Luggertuck loosens her corset (it's never been loosened before!), thereby setting off a chain of events in which all the strict rules of Smugwick Manor are abandoned. When, as a result of "the Loosening," the precious family heirloom, the Luggertuck Lump (quite literally a lump), goes missing, the Luggertucks look for someone to blame. Is it Horton Halfpott, the good-natured but lowly kitchen boy who can't tell a lie? Or one of the many colorful cast members in this silly romp of a mystery.

(For my review, click here!)

Regular kid Lenny Flem Jr. is the only one standing between his evil-genius best friend—Casper, a master of disguise and hypnosis—and world domination. It all begins when Casper spends money from his granny on a spectacularly convincing fake mustache, the Heidelberg Handlebar #7. With it he’s able rob banks, amass a vast fortune, and run for president. Is Lenny the only one who can see through his disguise? And will he be able to stop Casper from taking over the world?

A Picture Book by Tom! Illustrated by his wife!

Crankee Doodle, illustrations by CeCe Bell
Ever wonder what the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy” means, exactly? And what’s with the macaroni? Turns out it didn’t make any sense to Mr. Doodle, either. In fact, it made him pretty, um, cranky. This unapologetically silly picture book reveals that the legendary ride to town (and the whole macaroni thing) was all suggested by Mr. Doodle’s overeager pony.

And, coming on May, 20, 2014

The Quickpick Papers : Poop Fountain!

This hilarious, highly original series, which so astutely captures the odd preoccupations of middle schoolers, will appeal to the many fans of the Origami Yoda series and such gross-out classics as How to Eat Fried Worms and Freckle Juice.

Lyle Hertzog and his friends Marilla and Dave expect to spend another dull holiday passing time at the local Qwikpick convenience store. Then an article in their hometown paper catches their eye—the sludge fountain at the nearby sewage plant is being retired. With this news, the three friends decide they’re not just normal kids who don’t have Christmas plans: they’re the Qwikpick Adventure Society. Their first mission: to see the “poop fountain” before it fades from glory.

Told with the mix of journal entries, doodles, and handwritten notes that has made the Origami Yoda books so appealing, this is another great series from a master chronicler of middle school.

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