Wednesday, September 21, 2011

REVIEW: The True Meaning of Smekday (I still heart it)

The last time I read The True Meaning of Smekday, I listened to the audio book...

And it was magnificent!

This time around, I decided to read the actual text, so the graphic novel portions would be a little easier to follow and so I could write a proper review of the book.

I actually only got about 40 or 50-pages in, before I found myself desperately missing the voice of Bahni Turpin and went back to the Odyssey Award-winning audio book.

(She adds so much personality to the Boov voices!)

And look, I still managed to write a review of the story.

Rex, A.  (2007)  The True Meaning of Smekday.  New York:  Hyperion Books for Children.

423 pages.

Appetizer:  As part of a school assignment and national competition, twelve-year-old Tip (AKA Gratuity Tucci) must write about "The True Meaning of Smekday" and describe her personal experience during the recent alien invasion.

Tip had quite the experience, to say the least.

In this hilarious road-trip story, Tip recounts how her mother was abducted by aliens, how she befriended a Boov alien who goes by the name J.Lo and how together the crossed much of the country in search of Tip's mom.

Although the middle part of the story does feel to drag on a little as Tip and J.Lo go from state to state encountering various characters, I absolutely love the way this novel explores and discusses issue of race, discrimination and the forced relocation of people.  (And those are topics that normally a person would be hard-pressed to say that they "love" anything about discussing them.)

There are so many wonderful humorous moments in the story that even a year after reading this book for the first time, can still make me giggle.

My biggest regret in terms of The True Meaning of Smekday is that I did not listen to or read it soon.  *Bows to Holly who had originally recommended the book to me months and months before I ever got around to reading it.*

I've used this book in my classroom twice so far.  Once, I read aloud a portion of pages 24-29 to demonstrate the misunderstanding of when people (in this case creatures) from different cultures meet and to highlight the power dynamic between different cultures meeting (and from there show how some science fiction novels include cultural critiques and can be a vehicle to discuss race relations as well has historical periods when people from a specific culture were forced to relocate...*wipes brow*  that's a lot for one little read aloud to be able to do.)

The second time I used the book, I first did a pre-reading activity in which my writing students had to invent and describe their own "Smekday" holiday.  Many of them seemed to have a lot of fun with it.  In terms of their thoughts on the book.

I also used the book to discuss audience, since during her narration, Tip mentions several times that she's writing for people in the future.

Mmm, delicious.  So much to talk about.

I have to admit though, *after* reading the book, only a handful of my students enjoyed the book as much as I did.  Many seemed to think it was too long.

My argument that the meandering middle just provided "more for them to love" only went so far.

Dinner Conversation:

"ASSIGNMENT: Write an essay titled THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY. what is the Smekday Holiday? How has it changed in the year since the aliens left? You may use your own personal experiences from the alien invasion to make your points. Feel free to draw pictures or include photographs" (p. 1)

"It was Moving Day.
Should that be capitalized? I never would have capitalized it before, but now Moving Day is a national holiday and everything, so I think it should be.
It was Moving Day, and everybody was crazy" (p. 3).

"I remember Apocalypse Hal was on the corner by the Laundromat.  Hal was a neighborhood street preacher who worked at the fist and crab place next door.  He wore a sandwich board sign of Bible verses and shouted angry things at passerby like "The end times are near" and "Seafood samples $5.99."  Now his sign just read "TOLD YOU SO," and he looked more anxious than angry.
"I was right," he said as I passed.
"About the fish or the apocalypse?" I asked.  He followed beside me.
"Both."  (p. 4).

"I stifled a laugh.  "J.Lo?  Your Earth name is J.Lo?"
"Ah-ah," J.Lo corrected.  "Not 'Earth.'  'Smekland'."
"What do you mean, 'Smekland'?"
"That is the thing what we have named the planet.  Smekland.  As to tribute to our glorious leader, Captain Smek."
"Wait."  I shook my head.  "Whoa.  You can't just rename the planet."
"Peoples who discover places gets to name it."
"But it's called Earth.  It's always been called EArth."
J.Lo smiled condescendingly.  I wanted to hit him.
"You humans live too much in the pasttime.  We did land onto Smekland a long time ago."
"You landed last Christmas!"
"Ah-ah.  Not 'Christmas.1  'Smekday."
"Smekday"  (p. 28).

"Okay.  Starting before the Boov came.
I guess I really need to begin almost two years ago.  This was when my mom got the mole on her neck.  This was when she was abducted.
I didn't see it happen, naturally.  That's how it is with these things.  Nobody ever gets abducted at a football game, or at church, or right after Kevin Frompky knocks all your books out of your hands between classes and everybody's looking and laughing and you have no choice but to sock him in the eye.
Or whatever" (p. 33).

"My birth certificate says "Gratuity Tucci," but Mom's called me Turtlebear ever since she learned that "Gratuity" didn't mean what she thought it did.  My friends call me Tip.
I guess I'm telling you all this as a way of explaining about my mom.  When people ask me about her, I say she's very pretty.  When they ask if she's smart like me, I say she's very pretty" (p. 37).

Tasty Rating: !!!!!

1 comment:

  1. \o/ Book of AWESOME.

    And if college students are complaining about a book this fluffy and entertaining being long... I'm not sure they belong in college.



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