When the Grade Four teacher at Trillium Elementary in Toronto assigns a new project, Jude Bhandari is sure that he'll be paired up with his best friend Sanjay. Everyone knows they both love everything to do with outer space. But instead Jude is paired up with the tough new kid from England who likes to pick fights. Will Jude be able to find common ground with the new kid--or will he end up as his latest victim? [Fry Reading level - 2.3
ANDREW LARSEN'S picture book The Imaginary Garden (Kids Can Press) was nominated for a Governor General's Award in 2009. Andrew lives in Toronto, where he is a writer and a stay-at-home dad.
Violence paradoxically begets friendship in Larsen's simply told chapter-book debut.
Jude is astounded to see his unaggressive best friend Sanjay and their new fourth-grade classmate Terrence trade punches to the face. The next day he runs into sullen Terrence on the street, berates him for his behavior and gets smacked himself! When Jude shares his dismay and confusion, his Indian grandmother Nani counsels understanding rather than anger or escalation. She suggests that Terrence, newly arrived in Toronto from England in the wake of his parents' divorce, might be feeling so upset and lonely that he sometimes lashes out before thinking. Acting on an oblique hint from his own divorced mother, Jude finds a way to make peace, not just between him and Terrence but with Sanjay too--suggesting that they all team up to make and show the class how to play conkers with fallen chestnuts.
Larsen only sketches in back stories and daily side business, but Nani, an enthusiastic wrestling fan, animates the small supporting cast. Moreover, Jude's emotions are sharply felt, and his solution models a feasible strategy.
Purposeful but not preachy. (Fiction. 8-10)
Fighting. Friends. Fitting in: The Luck of Jude by Andrew Larsen
Posted on March 8, 2011 by booksintransit
At the recent OLA conference, I saw a large line-up to grab a free ARC (advanced reading copy) for Andrew Larsen's 'The Luck of Jude'. To my surprise, he was also there to speak to individuals and sign the book. Although we only had a minute, I was able to quickly tell him about a unique program my library offers--a book club for fathers and sons. The content of the book follows a boy in grade four, and I knew this would be an excellent novel for my boys to read (grade three and four). Larsen was impressed with the idea, and signed 'Good Luck!' in my copy!
Although The Luck of Jude is a short chapter book (106 pages), it manages to tell an interesting story of grade four student, Jude (yes, named after the Beatles song). The 'Luck of Jude' comes from being hit on a head by a chestnut. His friend informs him that being hit in the head by a chestnut means good luck. She then teaches him the game Conkers (attach a string to a chestnut and battle against player to destroy their chestnut). Jude is able to use his new love of the game to relate to the new student in his class.
What I liked about the book:
1) Throughout the story, the reader learns how much Jude loves lists (as do I). Larsen starts each chapter with a list. For example: Things that help me fall asleep, or Things that bug me about my dad. These lists are great for grabbing the reader's attention, and adding visual interest.
2) It oozes Toronto content--from listing the local parks, to poking fun of Toronto's beloved Leafs, Larsen makes it known that he is Canadian.
3) Jude's Nani (grandma). She teaches Jude to see beyond differences and be a friend. It is an important lesson for all individuals to learn.
4) Even though I didn't particularly like the amount of blood and fighting, I liked how Larsen redeemed himself when Jude doesn't resort to violence after being punched in the face. Hopefully young readers will also realize that violence is not the answer.
5) I know reluctant readers will love the content. It's all about fighting, friends and fitting in. Larsen is able to include all of these aspects in the short, quick read.
-Violence, and a couple of references to 'ass' and 'idiot'.
-After reading this story, I know many kids would love to try playing Conkers. However, it can be a dangerous game! In the past, schools in fear of legal consequences have actually banned the game. I just hope the book doesn't cause any problems for the local school boards?
"(Larsen's) writing is both genuine and easily accessible. Luck of Jude features characters so authentic you might almost expect to bump into them on (Toronto's) Brunswick Avenue."
Bullying of innocent victims happens each and every day in Canadian schools and communities. Teachers and caregivers can use this book as a read-aloud to begin a dialogue about bullying.
Nani, [Jude's grandmother ... animates the small supporting cast... Jude's emotions are sharply felt, and his solution models a feasible strategy.
Purposeful but not preachy. (Fiction. 8-10)
"The novel is simple and straightforward, weaving together the elements of learning to play conkers with the more serious plotline of dealing with bullies and fitting in.
Jude is a sympathetic narrator; his voice is energetic and lightly humourous... It was also refreshing to read a multicultural book where race and culture are not the main points of the novel, and provided a very realistic view of an urban Toronto neighbourhood. Young readers who enjoy realistic novels will like reading about Jude and his friends..."
In his first chapter book, Larsen addresses issues of acting out, fitting in, and understanding -- as viewed through the eyes of Jude, a Toronto fourth-grader. The lists that open each chapter hint at the action to come, and also provide bite-sized insights into the mind of our hero. His reluctance to befriend someone who seems to him belligerent and mysterious feels very natural, and we watch him work through his problems with an appealing honesty...
A funny, down-to-earth take on familiar and universal themes.