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The BookBrowse Review

Published May 21, 2014

ISSN: 1930-0018

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    A library is thought in cold storage
Hokey Pokey
Hokey Pokey
by Jerry Spinelli

Paperback (22 Apr 2014), 320 pages.
Publisher: Yearling
ISBN-13: 9780440420514
BookBrowse:
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Welcome to Hokey Pokey. A place and a time, when childhood is at its best: games to play, bikes to ride, experiences to be had. There are no adults in Hokey Pokey, just kids, and the laws governing Hokey Pokey are simple and finite. But when one of the biggest kids, Jack, has his beloved bike stolen - and by a girl, no less - his entire world, and the world of Hokey Pokey, turns to chaos.

Without his bike, Jack feels like everything has started to go wrong. He feels different, not like himself, and he knows something is about to change. And even more troubling he alone hears a faint train whistle. But that's impossible: every kid knows there no trains in Hokey Pokey, only tracks.

Master storyteller Jerry Spinelli has written a dizzingly inventive fable of growing up and letting go, of leaving childhood and its imagination play behind for the more dazzling adventures of adolescence, and of learning to accept not only the sunny part of day, but the unwelcome arrival of night, as well.  

NIGHT

All night long Seven Sisters whisper and giggle and then, all together, they rush Orion the Hunter and tickle him, and Orion the Hunter laughs so hard he shakes every star in the sky, not to mention Mooncow, who loses her balance and falls—puh-loop!—into Big Dipper, which tip-tip-tips and dumps Mooncow into Milky Way, and Mooncow laughs and splashes and rolls on her back and goes floating down down down Milky Way, and she laughs a great moomoonlaugh and kicks at a lavender star and the star goes shooting across the sky, up the sky and down the sky, a lavender snowfireball down the highnight down . . .

down . . .

down . . .

down . . .

TODAY
Jack



. . . to Hokey Pokey . . .

. . . where it lands, a golden bubble now, a starborn bead, lands and softly pips upon the nose of sleeping Jack and spills a whispered word:

it's

and then another:

time

***

Something is wrong.

He knows it before he opens his eyes.

He looks.

His bike is gone!

Scramjet!

What more could he have done? He parked it so close that when he shut his eyes to sleep, he could smell the rubber of the tires, the grease on the chain.

And still she took it. His beloved Scramjet. He won't say her name. He never says her name, only her kind, sneers it to the morning star: "Girl."

He runs to the rim of the bluff, looks up the tracks, down the tracks. There she is, ponytail flying from the back of her baseball cap, the spokes of the wheels — his wheels — plumspun in the thistledown dawn.

He waves his fist, shouts from the bluff: "I'll get you!"

The tracks curve, double back. He can cut her off!

He sneakerskis down the gullied red-clay slope, leaps the tracks, plunges into the jungle and runs — phloot! — into a soft, vast, pillowy mass. Oh no! Not again! He only thinks this. He cannot say it because the front half of himself, including his face, is buried in the hippopotamoid belly of Wanda's monster. This has happened before. He wags his head hard, throws it back, and — ttthok! — his face comes free.

"Wan-daaa!" he bellows. "Wake up!"

Wanda stirs in a bed of mayapples.

"Wanda!"

The moment Wanda awakes, her monster vanishes in a puff of apricots, dropflopping Jack to the ground. He's up in an instant and off again.

Every other step is a leap over a sleeper. All is quiet save thunder beyond the trees and the thump of the sun bumping the underside of the horizon.

He hoprocks across the creek, past the island of Forbidden Hut, and pulls up huffing at the far loop end of the tracks. He looks up, looks down.

Nothing.

He slumps exhausted to the steel rail. He stares at his sneaker tops. He gasps, reflects. She said she would do it. "I'm going to take—" No, to be accurate, she didn't say take, she said ride: "I'm going to ride your bike." And who knows? Maybe if she had said it nicely . . . maybe if she wasn't a girl. But she is a girl and she said it with that snaily smirk, but there was no way she was ever coming within ten long spits of his bike.

But she did.

And he hates her. He hates her for taking the thing he loves most in this world. But maybe even more, he hates her for being right.

He pushes himself up from the rail. Once more he casts forlorn eyes up and down the tracks that no train travels. He cries out: "Scramjet!" This is too painful to bear alone. From the black tarpit of despair he rips his Tarzan yell and hurls it into the jungle and over the creek and across the dreamlands of Hokey Pokey.

From Hokey Pokeyby Jerry Spinelli. Text Copyright 2013 by Jerry Spinelli. Map copyright 2013 by David Leonard. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Jerry Spinelli uses the vibrant make-believe world of Hokey Pokey to shine a light on childhood's triumphs and tribulations.

Print Article

The land of Hokey Pokey is unlike any other. It is inhabited by kids, only kids, not a grown-up in sight. Well, except for the Hokey Pokey man, who arrives daily, to dish out flavored ice to everyone.

Here, a first-day Newbie pops out of the Tattooer after having exchanged his diaper for a brand-new tattoo. He looks for the first Big Kid he can find and shows off the barely dry ink art on his belly. The pairing of the Newbie and the Big Kid is "instinct for the Newbie – duty for the Big Kid." Before the first day ends, the Big Kid must show the Newbie the ropes; he must impart the four rules of Hokey Pokey:

  1. Never pass a puddle without stomping in it.
  2. Never go to sleep until the last minute.
  3. Never go near Forbidden Hut.
  4. Never kiss a girl. (Or boy, depending on who the Newbie is).

Jack is the biggest of the Big Kids. He is known throughout Hokey Pokey – revered by every boy in the land and sufficiently hated by the girls his age. His posse, LaJo and Dusty, and he, make up the Three Amigos, and they go everywhere together. From the Great Plains where a band of wild bikes (yes, bikes!) roam, to the steep terrain of Gorilla Hill, to The Forbidden Hut, which is on its own island past the jungle and the sandy creek beach.

On the day Hokey Pokey begins, Jack wakes up and, before he even opens his eyes, he knows something is wrong. This feeling is confirmed when he looks next to him and sees that his trusty bike, ScramJet, is missing. Missing! And he knows just who took it. Jubilee – the girl Jack hates more than any other.

What follows is a beautifully crafted account of this one life-changing day. Jerry Spinelli alternates voices in Hokey Pokey – between Jack; Jubilee; Destroyer, a big bully of small stature; and LaJo or Dusty. Together they weave a magical, yet utterly real account of what it means to begin to grow up. In an interview, Spinelli says:

When I was a young boy in the '50s there was this man in Norristown called the Hokey Pokey man…He was from Italy and he would push this white cart with two handles and big wooden wheels up and down the streets of Norristown. He had this huge block of ice that he would scrape with a big metal scraper, dump it out into a paper cone and drizzle with one of his container of syrupy flavors. He had it down pat and he knew what time the kids were getting out of what schools, and there he would be.

So, the Hokey Pokey man became absolutely iconic in Norristown. If you go to Norristown now and ask people who have lived there all their lives, their eyes will glaze over. At the time he was just part of the scene, you did not give him much thought. But, forty, fifty years later there is a treasured memory and a signature memory that represented that time and place in a way few other things could. And now that is gone forever, along with the Hokey Pokey man himself.

Hokey Pokey is chock full of details like the Hokey Pokey shaved-ice man. Spinelli captures them all perfectly and organizes them into a vibrant landscape. A place filled with quintessential (idealized) kid-games and activities, even including the Snuggle Spot, a candy-cane striped house where one can get a furry snuggle from the Snuggler. A place infused with delicious, perfectly made-up words like dropflops, hoprocks, and groundcrinkle. The choices Spinelli makes in creating this world allow childhood to be not just a time of life, but an actual place of life too. And although he clearly uses details from his own childhood, Spinelli's Hokey Pokey world never sounds nostalgic or historical.

What is most amazing though, is how Spinelli articulates the jumbled mix of emotions that a child feels. He chronicles the push-and-pull of separating self from others; of wanting to grow up and yet wanting to stay a kid through and through. Spinelli manages to wholly – and sometimes painfully – portray the internal landscape of being a child, all against the mesmerizing, external landscape of Hokey Pokey.

Hokey Pokey is well suited for middle graders (ages 8-12) but will be wholeheartedly enjoyed by young adults and adults as well.

Reviewed by Tamara Smith

Publishers Weekly
Spinelli's story will set imaginations spinning and keep readers guessing about Jack's fate and what Hokey Pokey is all about (so to speak). The ending is both inevitable and a risk (it invokes one of the more clichéd tropes in literature and film), but Spinelli's dizzying portrait of life in Hokey Pokey will keep readers rapt. Ages 10–up.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. A masterful, bittersweet recognition of coming-of-age. Ages 10-13, and up.

VOYA
[Hokey Pokey] explores childhood as a place as well as a period of time. Spinelli's poignant story of leaving childhood behind and growing into the unknowns of adolescence is cleverly approached and lyrical in presentation. This is essential for all public and school libraries.

School Library Journal
Starred Review. This unforgettable coming-of-age story will resonate with tween readers and take its rightful place beside the author’s Maniac Magee and Louis Sachar’s Holes.

Write your own review

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by lalith
revanth
It is very good.

Print Article

The Hokey Pokey

You put your right foot in
You put your right foot out
You put your right foot in
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around
That's what it's all about!

The Hokey Pokey is a timeless circle game, played by millions of children in millions of circles across many, many miles. But where did it come from? How did it start?

The Hokey Pokey Dance The Hokey Pokey (known as such in the United States, Canada, Ireland and Australia, known as Hokey Cokey in the U.K., and Hokey Tokey in New Zealand) is a circle dance, in which the participants sing the song (see above) and follow the lyrics, putting different parts of the body into the circle when instructed to do so. The Hokey Pokey appears to have a few possible places of origin.

The first was in wartime London. Supposedly a Canadian army officer suggested that Al Tabor, a British bandleader during the 1920-50s, write a party song. Al Tabor wrote it in 1942, and titled the song Hokey Pokey, based on a childhood memory he had of an ice cream vendor calling out: Hokey pokey penny a lump! Have a lick make you jump! Tabor changed the name from Pokey to Cokey on the suggestion of the officer who said it would sound better. Speaking of ice cream, one theory suggests that the words Hokey Pokey came from the Italian ecco un poco which means here is a little and was used by the Italian ice cream vendors who sold bits of ice cream wrapped in waxed paper.

But others suggest that Irish songwriter and publisher Jimmy Kennedy (who is known for The Teddy Bear's Picnic) created the song and dance in 1942 to entertain Canadian soldiers stationed in London.

Another theory is that the song originated in the United States – in Scranton, PA to be exact. Two musicians, Robert Degan and Joe Brier, supposedly created the song and dance in 1946 to entertain vacationers in the Poconos Mountains Resorts.

Yet another theory is that the term Hokey Cokey came from hocus pocus, the familiar chant that a magician utters as he does his tricks. This term was created as a mockery of the Latin term hoc corpus meum, which describes the Catholic Mass communion bread becoming the body of Jesus Christ.

Finally, others have suggested that the song comes from a Shaker song called Hinkum Booby. It was heard as early as 1857, supposedly sung by two sisters on a visit to Bridgewater, NH, from Canterbury, England. It was published in Edward Deming Andrews' book, The Gift to be Simple: Songs, Dances and Rituals of the American Shakers and goes like this:

I put my right hand in,
I put my right hand out,
I give my right hand a shake, shake, shake and I
Turn myself about.

Circling back to ice cream, there is the New Zealand-based Hokey Pokey ice cream, which is vanilla with honeycomb toffee. Incidentally Hokey Pokey is the Cornish term for honeycomb. My New Zealand friend – who used to live in NYC and now lives on the west coast of Canada – constantly laments that he can't get any of this delicious treat where he lives. I found a recipe for the "hokey pokey" part of the ice cream here. I am tempted to try it!

Picture from mentalfloss.com

By Tamara Smith

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