A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mark Goldblatt's coming-of-age novel, Twerp, offers a kid's-eye view of the middle school years in a Jewish New York City neighborhood during the late 1960s. The friend issues that sixth-grader Julian Twerski deals with are universal, but his ability to analyze his own behavior and to find inspiration and understanding from great literature are exceptional. There's a lot of humor, but also kid-on-kid violence, including bullying of a mentally disabled teen. Characters mention two wars: the then-current Vietnam war, and World War II (part of an adult character's tongue was cut by Nazis). The novel also includes relatively innocent and clueless relationships between boys and girls that result in more conflict than romance, but one girl kisses a boy on the cheek.
What's the story?
Julian Twerski's English teacher, Mr. Selkirk, has given Julian the opportunity to write a journal instead of studying Julius Caesar along with the rest of his Honors English class. Julian, who says he doesn't care for Shakespeare, recalls several events from the current school year, including an incident involving a rock and some pigeons, and some major misunderstandings about a love letter written for a friend. Julian lets himself be talked into some unfortunate behavior, and it's clear there's one mistake he doesn't want to address: something involving a boy named Stanley that apparently got Julian suspended from school. As he carries on writing his non-Caesar journal, Julian becomes increasingly philosophical about his friendships, and gains an understanding of what happened with Stanley, and an appreciation of Shakespeare.
Is it any good?
The point of view in TWERP is almost perfect -- that of a highly intelligent boy who nevertheless makes mistakes even he doesn't understand. Mark Goldblatt's portrayal of Julien is never precious or overly moralistic; his characters are funny, relatable, and human, and they suffer and blunder just like real middle school kids do. The period setting of the book adds interest, but the kids and events are universal and relatable. Twerp is a highly entertaining book that will help tweens understand themselves and their place in the world, and even some classic literature.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the differences between our time and 1969, when Twerp is set. What, if anything, would be different if the story took place today?
How is Twerp different from other rmiddle school books you've read?
Read some of the literature Julian reads in this novel (he finds these writings challenging but worth it): Shakespeare's Hamlet or Julius Caesar, or his sonnets, or the works of poet Philip Sidney.
- Author: Mark Goldblatt
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Random House Children's Books
- Publication date: May 28, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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