Today’s book review is for Odd, Weird & Little, by Patrick Jennings, published by Egmont USA. It is scheduled to be released on January 28, 2014. I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Woodrow has always been the outcast in the class, but when a new kid shows up from Quebec, there’s a new target. Toulouse isn’t just new–he’s strange. He wears funny clothes, he’s small, he barely talks, and he carries a briefcase. But Woodrow recognizes a bit of a kindred spirit, and possibly a new friend. Even though Toulouse is a skilled artist, musician and volleyball player, he continues to be a target for bullying. Woodrow decides that it’s time to finally take a stand for Toulouse and himself. Odd, Weird & Little is a heartwarming story about finding friendship and self-confidence.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about this novel was how well developed Woodrow, the protagonist, was. He was a kid with a clear and distinct personality. Even though he had a lot of quirks, those quirks weren’t the sole defining characteristics of his personality. We also discovered that he was shy and creative, had a good relationship with his family, and was empathetic. It was easy to see why he might be the target of bullying, and at the same time why he shouldn’t be.
My biggest complaint with the writing was how a lot of the dialogue was handled. When the students in class were all talking, it switched to the format of a play–a name, a colon, and what that person said. It was a strange choice for a middle grade novel. More than that, though, it stripped out any description of other behavioral cues. It also took away opportunities for secondary character development. Worst of all, it actually made it more difficult for me to follow who was saying what, because it became too easy to gloss over the initial tags.
The development of the friendship between Woodrow and Toulouse was nice, though. While it may have initially been motivated by a feeling of sympathy on Woodrow’s side, it quickly found a foundation of shared interests. The only aspect that felt a bit unrealistic was how quickly it happened. It felt almost like insta-friend. I understand Woodrow being desperate for friendship, but inviting someone to your house within a few hours of meeting them seemed a little surprising.
Overall I give the book 3 stars. It was a good story with a great message for middle graders. Learning how to be comfortable with yourself can be challenging, so reading about someone truly different might be reassuring. I also liked that Toulouse really was odd–much more so than people suspect.
You can find more information on this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.