Sometimes my children like a book. Ok, if you are at all familiar with my two sons you might be rolling your eyes right now. Yes, Milo and Ezra are enthusiastic readers. But that doesn't actually mean that they just loooove all books. The fact is that they, like most enthusiastic readers, have developed into fairly critical readers as well.
They'll race through a book and then when you ask about it, say, "Ehh." That's good intel. I need to know that. It doesn't do to falsely praise a book to a kid.
I won't give an ehhh book to a picky reader. I might give an ehhh book to an avid reader, especially if she is impatiently waiting for a favorite to come in. In that case I am happy to say, "Listen, can I give you something to read until the next Artemis Fowl/Cupcake Diaries/Origami Yoda gets here? Here's something that will tide you over. It's ok. It's exciting enough, but it may not knock your socks off."
And she'll respect you for it - they can't all blow you away, and you're not doing anybody any favors by pretending otherwise. Especially not a kid who reads two or three books a week.
But The Tapper Twins Go to War (With Each Other) is NOT THAT BOOK. NOT, I repeat, the "ehh" book.
I had thought that it might be - its cover aims straight at the Wimpy Kid / I Funny reader, which is no bad thing, but doesn't generally indicate an interior of beefy LOLz and chocolatey rich insidious insight. Generally, a cover like that signals a book full of farts and boogers. And while, to be sure, fart- and booger-lovers will NOT be disappointed (as they so seldom are) by this book...
Well. Getting ahead of myself.
I jacked this book straight to the top of my TBR pile after putting up with savoring the sound of my goofy-ass brilliant children cackling like hyenas over it all weekend. Now, Milo, who is 13, will laugh out loud over a book any time. If the author's all in, so is he. His younger brother Ezra, 11, is a tougher sell. And so we took note when Ez, who was first to pluck this book from the I am not kidding you CORAL REEFS of new books accreting in our living room, started burbling giggles as he turned the pages faster and faster.
Ez read the book.
Milo read the book.
I read the book.
Each of us laughed out loud - and I suspect at different pages.
Here's how this book goes: as you can tell by the title, Claudia and Reese Tapper are twins who get in a fight. Somebody takes the last Pop-Tart, then the other somebody accuses his sister of an odorous Thai-food fart in front of the whole sixth grade class. Retaliation takes the form of a dead fish in the backpack. And so on.
So as you can see, there are lots of amusing smells right off the bat. But Claudia, who is writing the book as an oral history, takes the word "war" pretty literally.
She describes mounting hostilities (the Pop-Tart), diplomatic efforts (soliciting parental intervention), and alliances (Claudia's student government contacts and Reese's soccer buddies). Escalation leads to moral compromise. Eventually, Claudia is on a victorious march to the sea when she realizes her response has become disproportionate. She tries to stop it, but she has made a powerful ally who insists that she act with vicious thoroughness in order to further his own agenda.
I am not kidding you, this book is a stitch. It just happens to be the frickin Treaty of Versailles as played out in Minecraft (er, "MetaWorld"). And with far fewer lasting consequences. Nobody writes "Cabaret," for example.
The format mimics multi-platform correspondence, as a lot of books do these days. There are SnapChat ("ClickChat") sessions, MetaWorld chat logs and screengrabs, emails, and texts. The texts between the parents are particularly priceless:
The things you find yourself typing on a tiny screen to the love of your life. Who could have anticipated?
"MAN UP - You wanted kids." Oh my god I laughed for MINUTES.
In the next book, the Tapper Twins are the organizers of a city Scavenger Hunt to raise money for their school. Even if they are working together - perhaps especially if they are working together - this is bound to go horribly wrong.
In other news, I thrilled to announce that I am now writing for The Baltimore Sun, my hometown rag. Every six weeks I'll have a nice fat column on some topic in children's lit. My first column was on picture books for all ages; my second is on nonfiction that engages all kinds of readers. Light for all!