Thursday, December 19, 2013

Middle-Grade/Teen Review: The Dumbest Idea Ever!

I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, but I have enjoyed a few of them in the past, so I looked forward to reading a new release from Jimmy Gownley, The Dumbest Idea Ever! I quickly realized that this book defies categorization. Yes, it is in the form of a graphic “novel,” but it isn’t a novel at all; it’s a memoir about Gownley’s own adolescence and how he got his start as an author.

The memoir begins when Jimmy was thirteen, attending eighth grade in Catholic school in a small Pennsylvania coal town. He’s an excellent student and one of the school’s best basketball players. The only piece of his life that doesn’t seem to fit is his love of comic books and graphic novels. Everyone else sees them as a waste of time, and the nuns at school won’t even let him read them during quiet reading time.

Things are good for Jimmy until he gets the chicken pox, followed by pneumonia, and misses almost a month of school. His grades drop, he misses the championship basketball game, and things seem to keep getting worse. After a summer spent hanging out with the kids in his neighborhood, Jimmy starts high school and his problems seem to just get worse. Jimmy feels like he can’t get out of the slump that began with his long illness, plus he struggles with the kind of problems all young teens face: transitioning to high school, making new friends, talking to girls, and doing well in school.

Eventually, Jimmy writes and draws his own comic book and even manages to get it published (no spoilers here – that is revealed in the first pages of the book), but his friends don’t always understand his passion for comics. You'll have to read it for yourself to discover what the dumbest idea ever is!

I enjoyed this unique graphic novel memoir (a new category of book?). It’s a coming of age story that middle-graders will relate to, but it is also about setting goals and making your dreams come true, even when your friends don’t get it. I’m no expert on graphic novels, but I thought that both the writing and the illustrations were very good, and the story held my attention. Kids who love to write or draw will especially enjoy this inspiring real-life story.

236 pages, Graphix (a Scholastic imprint)

NOTE: This book is scheduled to be released February 25, 2014

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