Saint John Don Bosco:

"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man (Sammy Keyes Series) by Wendelin Van Draanen

Another favorite of librarians. But I consider it a pop culture series to avoid.

It’s a cutesy story with a spunky girl protagonist. The writing is catchy and fun-for-adolescents, but there are too many strikes against it, with at least one strike being fatal…

Quick plot: Sammy is a tween who has 2 issues going on in this book. She and her 2 friends go to the local creepy house on Halloween and go inside to put out a fire, find an older man tied up with a mask on his face, and rescue him. They later figure out someone was trying to kill him. Sammy helps with tracking down the culprit. Also, at school, she and friends hatch a plot to get even with a mean girl, Heather, who has been making calls to the school's cool boy, pretending to be Sammy and having a big crush on him.

Minor to major problems:

~ Sammy’s antagonistic relationship with the local police officer.
~ The big party thrown for 7th and 8th graders, smoking of cigarettes included.
~ The liberal use of “stupid” and casual use of “butt.”
~ At the big party, one girl gives the "cool" boy a sly wink. It's the kind of lascivious innuendo that you don't want your junior high (or older) girl to know about or master.
~ Sammy exacts revenge on her school enemy by humiliating her by playing an (illegal, although there's no mention of it) tape recording of her making a prank phone call over the school P.A. system. While satisfying and kind of funny, no repentance and forgiveness are in sight. Just revenge and the consequences afterward don't adequately deal with such a topic. It's more about clever Sammy escaping trouble for herself.
~ Sammy’s situation of living with her grandmother because her mother abandoned her, running off to try to become an actress. No relationship with mom in this book. No dad mentioned in this book.
~ The reference, twice, to Heather’s mom as a spandex-wearing flirt. A flirt to seventh-eighth grade boys, on top of it. Heather refers to her mother derogatorily and dismissively.

An adolescent whose mother runs away and another mother who flirts with under-age boys. Yikes. That parents like these exist is a tragedy to be acknowledged, not fodder for adolescents to absorb as normal….


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