Sunday, September 13, 2009

Vote for Larry

Biblio Bits Vote for Larry by Janet Tashjian, Henry Holt and Co., 2004 (ISBN 9780805072013)

Reading Level/Interest Age 810 lexile/Ages 12-14

Genre Realistic fiction

Plot Summary
Since readers left Josh Swensen in The Gospel According to Larry, he has had to enact a pseudocide (fake suicide) to get out of the media spotlight. In the intervening years, Josh has left his family and friends behind, lived under pseudonyms, traveled and lived all over the country, always in fear of being found out. His old friend (and heart-throb) Beth, a passionate activist, locates Josh (now almost 18 years old) in Colorado and kidknaps him. Beth's goal is to convince Josh to run for a local seat in his home town in Msasachusetts; the prospect of jumping back into the public life (not to mention explaining that he isn't dead) is scary, not to mention that Josh has a girlfriend out in Colorado and must sort out his feelings for both girls. Ultimately, a local seat just isn't enough and, with help, Josh founds the Peace Party, a political party based on taking back the political system from big business. With a strong momentum of support from teens across the country, Josh and his running mate, Beth, wage a political campaign like no other, despite (or because of) their youth.

Critical Evaluation
Having not read the first Larry book, I was curious to see whether this one could "work" on its own. There were enough references to the exploits of the previous episode that I was able to piece together the background, but it might bother some tweens to read this one as a stand-alone. The pace of the story moves very quickly, especially as the momentum of the campaign builds; there are some slower moments, when Josh self-reflects, either about the "big" issues of the campaign or the equally big issues of his love life. There is a lot of content about the US political system, the presidential process, and many modern social issues facing our country in this story, such as poverty, education, campaign finance reform, and others. It seems to strike a good balance between portraying the fantasy of a teenage presidential candidate, with the realities of running a campaign (including physical threats and threats on his character), the historical/political content, and a little romance thrown in.

Reader's Annotation
When Josh "Larry" Swensen comes back from the dead to offer an alternative to the one-party political machine, it doesn't take long for disenfranchised teens to tune in to his message and turn off the reality TV shows!

Author Information
Janet Tashjian was born in 1956 and grew up in Providence, RI. She obtained her MFA in Creative Writing at Emerson College and studied with the notable children's/YA author, Jack Gantos. Tashjian also cites Lois Lowry as a "goddess" and inspired children's author who is "so funny and smart." She currently lives in Needham, MA, and has a husband, son, and dog. (Information for this author biography is from the author's page on Macmillan books.)

Challenge issues
Challenging mainstream thinking, questioning authority, criticizing our government (and the Bush administration), and some occasional swearing might be offensive to some.

Booktalking Ideas
A great selection for a booktalk on challenging the norms of our society. I could see it paired with So Yesterday (Scott Westerfeld), The Carbon Diaries (Saci Lloyd) and Little Brother (Cory Doctorow) because all three of these books give a realistic picture with a twist, not to mention raising some important questions.

Curriculum Ties
This would be such a fun book for a social studies class to read while they are studying the election process---just to round out the textbook with something fun and thought-provoking, of course. Another link would be in a current events class, to follow-up on some of the issues that the Peace Party raises. There are some great resources listed in the back of the book related to the topics mentioned in the book.

Why this book?
Well how many books are there about teenager who is running for president? This book shows teens that engaged activism and questioning the status quo can enact positive change, even if it's not as a candidate on a political ticket.


The Gospel According to Larry (2003) precedes this title; Larry and the Meaning of Life (2008) follows it.

Rockport Public Library owns?

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