(Each book review from GCDenwiddie.com examines the graphics (cover and picture), plot (including the ending), diversity, themes, and overall kidability. By kidability, I mean would my liberal-arts educated, at times bougie, social-justice-seeking self recommend this book to other people? Note, spoilers are included.)
Who knew Kim Wayans and her husband, Kevin Knotts, wrote children’s books? They author the Amy Hodgepodge series. As a huge fan of In Living Color, I couldn’t wait to see how funny the books would be! This G.C.Denwiddie #kidlit book reviews The Playing Games book, which is the fourth book in the series.
The cover and graphics in this series look like computer animated graphics. As the book is for 8-12 readers, I think it adds a video game-esque flavor to the graphics that can be appealing to young readers. There are about 2-4 pictures per chapter, and s typical chapter is about 3-10 pages. I think the pictures are great to encourage reluctant readers because the graphics break up longer text.
In Playing Games, Amy’s friends lose the star player on their basketball team and need a new player so they won’t be disqualified in the upcoming playoff tournaments. They talk Amy into playing with them without realizing she’s a klutz. Her friends end up turning on her because she isn’t that good and cause them to lose games. Amy even overhears her ‘friends’ talking about how bad she is behind her back. Eventually, one of the boys in their friend group decides to teach her to play basketball if Amy will tutor him for singing in exchange. Of course, the partnership works. At the end, Amy saves the day by winning the game and confront her friends about talking about her. They kiss and make-up. As a former basketball player, I wasn’t convinced that she would be able to improve that much, but hey it’s a story.
The series revolves around Amy Hodgepodge, a fourth grader who has been home-schooled, but is transitioning into public school. As she is of mixed heritage, African American, Asian, and White, the friends she makes give her the nickname of Hodgepodge.
The friends calling her Hodgepodge feels contrived. Children are cruel and I would have loved to see her have to deal with some of the meanness that people say. Overall, we don’t see much difference in the way they treat her except calling her Hodgepodge and we know children are crueler than that. However, I think the book attempts to show another form of diversity in that Amy is home schooled, but again, the book doesn’t really bring out the differences between homeschooling and public school. But they get credit for at least trying to show the diversity even if it falls flat. On the other hand, by not showing much of a difference between her background, the authors show that we have more in common than we say.
This book is great to discuss mixed heritage, family, and ‘friends’ who talk about you.
Despite feeling a little formulaic like they hired a ghostwriter, I think Amy Hodgepodge is an easy read for children who may have difficulty reading. After reading a few other books, the series improves at it goes along.I also like that we see an extended family structure with Amy’s family. She lives with her grandparents. I think it’s great.
I was slightly disappointed that the books weren’t as funny as I expected, but I’d recommend this book for a quick read.