Published by: Puffin; Reprint edition (May 2, 2013)
Available in: hardcover, paperback, library binding, Kindle, NOOK
At the time of this review there were two books in The Life of Ty series.
Young Ty is a sweet and tender heart, and oh so very seven. Not the stereotypical seven-year-old boy who is all bravado and action, but a real boy who is innocent and guileless and still needs his mother. Problem is, she has a new baby, and this takes all of her time.
This brings a story slim on plot, long on character. The point of view is squarely in Ty’s mind, which is refreshing. And at times, a little hard to follow. Stream of consciousness can be a bit clunky when a new character is in his first book, since we have no past reference for friends, actions or feelings. Thus, anytime something comes up, Ty’s narrative explains it. Which can get in the way of forward progress.
That’s my only criticism. Once the reader gets in the groove of the writing, The Life of Ty: Penguin Problems is a glorious book. Ty’s school world feels utterly real with little details, such as “crisscross applesauce” and morning meetings instead of rote lessons. His family is absolutely believable in the complicated way of families: love them and hate them, depending on the moment. And his friends are interesting, crazy and touching.
Two friends in particular will hit a chord with most readers. Lexie, the girl with whom he plays most often, is sometimes a little too wild. This bothers Ty. Also, another girl wants Lexie as her best friend, which pushes Ty to the sidelines. That’s hard for Ty, and hard to watch. And then there’s Joseph, Ty’s best friend, who happens to be in the hospital with leukemia. When they interact, it is to have fun scaring each other with funny noises, make jokes or talk about goofy stuff. Nowhere does this get maudlin. The reality of this health crisis is grounded and eye opening.
Author Myracle does a stellar job embracing the ultimate writing rule: we are shown Ty’s world, not told about it. That visual and honesty is both charming and heartbreaking. Real life, real problems, real boy. The final scenes involving a penguin stretch the believability factor, but it’s a comic plot twist that readers will enjoy.
The illustrations by Jed Henry maintain the easy ambiance of the text. But with just one or two per chapter, I only wish there were more.
What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….