Monday, February 2, 2009

REVIEW: Voss How I Come to America and am Hero, Mostly

Ives, D. (2008). Voss: How I Come to America and am Hero, Mostly. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.


Voss, as the title may hint at, is the story of fifteen-year-old Vospop Vsklzwczdztwczky, how he emigrates from Slobovia, a made up country that feels vaguely Eastern European, to the U.S.A. and becomes a hero to many illegal immigrants in New York City…mostly.

Written as a series of letters to his friend, Meero in Slobovia, Voss writes using invented spellings to capture his accent. The invented spelling may serve to make reading this book impossible for some struggling readers while it may also be a source of great amusement for readers who can decipher the words. (Amusing popular culture references and even the occasional swear word are hidden in among the alternate spellings)

Voss’s letters include critiques of American culture, the medical system and the treatment of illegal immigrants. This book could be used to challenge a lot of the assumptions many suburban, middleclass students have about the world.

Although intended for a teen audience, I feel like a lot of the humor will appeal to eleven to thirteen-year-old boys who have advanced literacy skills.

Activities to do with the book:

Voss could trigger a discussion of illegal immigration in America and the stereotypes, discrimination and lowered status often attributed to the immigrant population. Other possible discussions include contemplation over the class system in the country, the power of the media, and the process of legal and illegal organ donation.

The book could be used to trigger a class pen pal exchange with students in another country or even with students from another classroom.

Favorite Quotes

“I am no brave boy, Meero, as you know. I am what is called in Eenglish a “worry wart.” This is what we call in Slobovian a furri fart. America has no place for furri farts!” (p. 2).

“Soon I found a sign for Subway and walked in. Two peemply boys in silly white hats and rubber gloves stood behind a counter among strange phosphorescent foods…I was surprised that this Subway was a shop for sandwiches and not a train station. Here were sandwiches. Where were all the trains?” (p. 31).

“I was peevish, Meero. And peevishness is a great evil! As you know, peevishness is one of the Twelve Pretty Big Sins. The others are whining, carping, barking, moping, nose-picking, nose-picking-and-flicking-your-snot-into-the-air-instead-of-a-handkerchief, buttox-pinching, telling a joke badly, popping your chewing gum, whistling without a tune, and urinating outside the bowl without wiping it up” (pp. 9-10).


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