________________ CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 36 . . . . May 18, 2012


Jasper John Dooley: Star of the Week.

Caroline Adderson. Illustrated by Ben Clanton.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2012.
127 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-55453-578-1.

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 4-7.

Review by Karen Rankin.

***½ /4



[Jasper’s] Nan had given him the box. It was red with a gold latch and compartments inside for bracelets and earrings and rings. But Jasper wasn’t using it for jewelry. He was filling each of the compartments with lint. He packed the new blob in one of the gray-lint compartments. Lint with colored flecks went in a different compartment. There was also a compartment for pocket lint and a very, very special compartment that had only a tiny bit of lint in it because that kind of lint was rare and hard to collect. It was belly-button lint, and the only place that Jasper could get belly-button lint was in his dad’s belly button.

After he had sorted his lint, he took the box inside and told his mom he was going across the alley and one house down to see what his friend Ori was doing. “Good,” she said, “Play outside.”

A sound like the wa-wa-wa of a car alarm floated across Ori’s yard. Ori lived with his mother and father, just like Jasper. Except Ori’s mom was expecting a baby and for a month now had been going around looking like there was a watermelon stuffed under her shirt. Once, when Jasper mentioned it to Ori, Ori said, “Maybe it is! Maybe it is a watermelon!” Since then, whenever they talked about the baby, which wasn’t very often, they called it the watermelon. Jasper rang the doorbell, but nobody answered because of wa-wa-wa-wa coming from the open kitchen window. A watermelon or a baby? Jasper wondered. He was pretty sure he knew which one it was.

He knocked loudly. Finally, Ori came to the door wearing a winter hat with earflaps. The strings that held the flaps down were tied in a bow under his chin.

It’s finally Jasper John Dooley’s turn to be Star of the Week at school. Jasper is excited about wearing Ms. Tosh’s silver star all week, and he’s looking forward to the special projects he’ll be presenting to the class over the five days; but his week doesn’t go quite as he expects. His best friend, Ori, becomes a big brother the weekend before Jasper’s turn to be Star. Jasper likes Ori’s baby sister, even though she’s purple, looks like a plum, and cries all the time. On Monday, Ori arrives during Jasper’s show and tell. Ori’s tired face gets more attention from the class than Jasper’s precious lint collection. internal artJasper worries that Ms. Tosh will take back the silver star. He decides his mother should grow a baby, but his parents don’t seem to like the idea. Making his family tree (really, a family stick) for Tuesday, Jasper hangs leaves for his parents and grandparents and a Star for himself. Then, he hopefully adds a small purple leaf. One thing leads to another, and by Wednesday, Jasper has a homemade, wooden brother named Earl. Earl is not as good-natured as Jasper. When Earl loses his temper and chases some of the girls in Jasper’s class, the brothers (Jasper and Earl) end up in the Principal’s office. Jasper’s week includes some highs and lows, but by Friday, Ms. Tosh and Ori think he truly is a Star. Jasper also figures out how to make Earl behave and decides he doesn’t really want a baby.

     Jasper John Dooley: Star of the Week is a delightful and inspiring read-aloud for both teachers and parents of young children. Jasper is captivating and endearing. Readers are not told his age, but one can assume – by Ms. Tosh’s daily calendar routine – that he’s somewhere between Senior Kindergarten and Grade 3. (The author’s bio refers to a seven-year-old son.) Jasper tackles his problems with imagination and wit. For instance, on Wednesday, he brings Earl (his wooden brother) to show to the class, forgetting that he is supposed to present a science experiment. When Ms. Tosh reminds him, Jasper says, “Earl’s my science experiment.” He thinks quickly. After encouraging everyone in class to put a hand over their hearts, he invites them to come feel Earl’s chest. Earl doesn’t have a heart. Jasper explains that this is one way to tell the difference between something living or not.

      Sleep-deprived Ori is simply sketched, but credible given his circumstances. Ms. Tosh is sympathetic, caring, and believable, as are Jasper’s father and mother. Although, when Mom surprisingly expresses some concern over the “talent” Jasper plans to share with the class on Thursday, an opportunity to turn up the tension – or the humour – seems to have been lost: because Jasper has utmost confidence in his ability to perform, and because the reader has no clue what his talent is, Mom’s comments – such as, “Are you sure about your talent?” “I wish we’d started you on the violin.” – are not really understood or appreciated. By the time Jasper demonstrates his wonderfully unique talent – jumping to make the water with which he’s filled his stomach slosh around so that his body ‘sings’ – Mom’s anxious thoughts are virtually forgotten.

      Readers of Jasper John Dooley: Star of the Week will be happy to know that it is the first in a promised series.

Highly Recommended.

Karen Rankin is a Toronto, ON, teacher and writer of children’s stories.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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