UNDERSTANDING BUDDY by Marc Kornblatt

UNDERSTANDING BUDDY

Age Range: 10 - 12

KIRKUS REVIEW

A fifth-grader extends the hand of friendship, and keeps it extended until a bereaved classmate is ready to take it, in this unpolished but uplifting novel. Three months after the death of his family’s housecleaner in a car accident, Sam can still hear her voice in his head; so when her son Buddy, mute and withdrawn, becomes a new classmate, he makes friendly overtures. Buddy responds by either turning a cold shoulder or slugging him in the face—and meanwhile, because Sam decides to keep quiet about Buddy’s background, suddenly he’s on the outs with his jealous best friend Alex. Sam isn’t the only one to take a beating; a tendency for insults to turn without warning into fistfights not only gets Sam, Alex, and Buddy kicked off the soccer team, but ultimately earns Alex a concussion. As Sam tracks Buddy’s gradual thaw, he also recounts a series of debates in Bar/Bat Mitzvah class over issues brought up by several Bible stories, speculates about Buddy’s lifestyle and beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness, and demonstrates such a broad streak of decency that he’s even willing to play Ken to his little sister’s Barbie on Halloween. Despite the gratuitous violence, and the likelihood that readers will wind up understanding Sam more than Buddy, since Sam and Alex have mended fences by the end and Buddy has begun to talk again, at least the future looks brighter. Earnest, but only ankle-deep. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-689-83215-X
Page count: 120pp
Publisher: McElderry
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2001




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