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Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey
About the Author
Until her return to the United States in 2001, Shevi Arnold was the consumer columnist for Israel’s oldest and largest English language daily, The Jerusalem Post. She also worked for that paper as an arts-and-entertainment writer specializing in comedy and children’s entertainment. For four years she edited a comics magazine, and for seven years she was the cartoonist and illustrator of a religious newsweekly. Her educational background includes degrees in English Literature and Theater Studies, as well as a teacher’s certificate. Like Dan and Sandy, she loves to read, but she loves to write, and share her stories with readers, even more. Shevi Arnold now lives in a beautiful little town in New Jersey with her husband and two children. You can find her website at http://www.shevistories.com.
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Published by Play Along Media, LLC
Shevi Arnold, 2004
ISBN 13# 978-1936242030,paperback, $5.99
ISBN 10# 1936242030, Digital, .99 cents
Review by Christina Francine
Friendship, freedom, and bullies. These are what young people in their adolescent years think about. Adolescence is a time when the opinion of peers is more important than parents'. Arnold knows this and weaves her story, and her eighth-grade characters, around these topics, using humor to soften the seriousness.
Dan and Sandy have been friends for most of their lives and often share the same classes, hurdles, and viewpoints. Sandy sees herself as Dan's sidekick, his squire, his troubadour, like Don Quixote's companion, Sancho Panza. Both Dan and Sandy face the history teacher known as "The Dragon," the class bully known as "The Queen Bee," and Gwen, Dan's object of affection.
Dan and Sandy struggle with The Queen Bee because she tries to rule them as she does most of the eighth-grade and is always surrounded by her "drones." They wonder why many adults accept bullying as a right of passage. It's dangerous and they feel treated unfairly. Sandy decides to become a judge when she grows up. Then, if The Queen Bee did to Dan what she did, she could be arrested for assault. The Queen Bee could also be sued for libel for defiling Dan's reputation by spreading nasty rumors about him.
Dan becomes known as the "Geek King" because of The Queen Bee. At one point, he finally has enough and stands up to both The Queen Bee and The Dragon in the most surprising way.
Sandy addresses her English class one day, even though she's normally quiet. Maybe Dan's bravery was contagious. Sandy talks about Robert Frost's poem called, "The Road Not Taken." She talks about how it takes courage to take the road less traveled. Sandy goes on to say that Dan has taken the road less traveled and isn't worried about what others think, even though they make fun of him. They try to take from him that which makes him special, she adds. In reality, Sandy explains, those who don't take the road less traveled are actually jealous and wish they were brave. The real losers, Sandy says, "lose the chance to become the greatest possible" people they could have become, because they took the safer road.
Sandy worries that Dan's feelings for Gwen might come between them. After a few misunderstandings, Sandy realizes that no matter what happens, Dan is and will always be her friend.
Arnold approaches the difficult world of middle-school with a light approach. Her story is an accurate profile for those who've forgotten what it's like at this age, how serious problems at this age can be, and how friendship can help. Dan Quixote questions the fairness of, "Bullying as a right of passage." We all know that if adults don't help young people, they'll feel powerless and possibly do something drastic. After all, democracy gives Americans the right to be who they are no matter what their age is. A delightful story. Important. Strongly recommended.
From the blurb I expected that Dan would be the narrator of the story, however, it's actually Sandy whose point of view the story is told from. She is the long suffering best friend who loves Dan, as a mate of course, and while she might roll her eyes at his belief in fiction, she is willing to stand by his side as he goes on his adventures.
The story line seemed really fitting for the age group and deals with the difficult subject of bullying from both a fellow student, as well as a teacher who likes to make life difficult for everyone in her class. I think it's an important topic for kids of all ages, even adults, and one that I haven't seen dealt with so well in awhile. I think Arnold brings a light touch to the topic, one that provides a great example for kids to follow.
The main characters were all really neat kids, unique and true to themselves, trying to find their place in the world. I felt like the author handled that angle well, by showing how important it is to be who you are and that following the crowd isn't necessarily going to mean you are happy - being you is what will bring you happiness, once you've accepted who you are.
Jade, the bullying character, was the only one who seemed a little out of place. It felt to me like she was a little older than the others, or at least quite advanced in her bullying skills. She was a great villain, as was the Dragon, who had her own things going on - I liked that the story showed that sometimes there are reasons behind why a person acts the way they do, and that perhaps if you take the time to find those out, you can make a difference.
Another positive was the way a boy/girl friendship played such a central focus to the story, while not being a romantic relationship at all. I like seeing boys and girls being just friends.
So, I guess to sum it up there are a lot of great messages in this book, delivered in an amusing story without being preachy or too in your face. I think it would definitely appeal to the middle grade reader, and even as an adult I found things to like. I will probably read this with my eldest in the near future.
Ms. Arnold takes the reader into her characters' heads to see how they look at the world. The dreamer - Dan, and the lawyer-to-be - Sandy, each have their own unique view of how to take on the world. Together they make an unstoppable team.
When the school bully tries to get Dan to go against his better judgment and when he refuses, causes the school to turn against him, Sandy steadfastly backs him up. In the end their strong beliefs and friendship do more than just help themselves, but change the lives of other characters in the book, most often for the better.
The story shows how standing up for oneself and for one's ideals can have unforeseen results and happy endings for everyone involved.