Here’s Hank: Bookmarks Are People Too!
by Henry Winkler & Lin Oliver
Grosset & Dunlap (Penguin)
Premise: Hank Zipzer is a second grader who loves to make people laugh. When his teacher Ms. Flowers announces that their class will be putting on a play, Hank is far from thrilled. How’s he supposed to learn his lines when words always swim on the page? Math doesn’t come any easier, and he has trouble telling right from left. Hank’s dyslexic.
Here’s Hank: Bookmarks Are People Too! insists that every kid learns differently … and that’s okay. The story features a racially-diverse ensemble cast. Hank’s best friend Frankie is African-American, and the boys soon round out the prerequisite trio with new friend Ashley Wong. The spit-wad-rolling class bully is redhead Nick McKelty, and then there’s Hank’s perfect-at-everything little sister Emily. My personal favorite was Hank’s fellow-pickle-aficionado grandfather, Papa Pete, who fills the role of confidante and father figure.
Perks: The book is typeset in a font designed to make reading easier for people who struggle with dyslexia. Illustrations by Scott Garrett make it easy to get a mental lock on the cast.
“Hank’s a riot,” Frankie said.
“He keeps everyone laughing.
We call it the Zipzer attitude.”
Personal Opinion: It was hard to miss the buzz when this book released (Feb 2014), so I was curious if Hank’s story would live up to the hype. Writing for this age level can be tricky—short sentences, simple vocabulary, and limited space to develop plot and characters. While the story did feel stilted at times, I found myself liking Hank. Especially his quirk of making up lists in his head. These frank insights appear at the end of each chapter, giving readers a peek at one little boy’s hopes, fears, hurts, and triumphs. A fair start to a gentle-hearted, slice-of-life series.
“The world’s greatest underachiever”
Note: This is my first introduction to the everyday adventures of Hank Zipzer, but he’s been around for a long time. A quick check of Hank Zipzer’s page on Penguin’s website shows no less than 17 adventures for readers aged 9-12. The second book in the Here’s Hank series is also available: Here’s Hank: A Short Tale about a Long Dog.
Rating: As a mom, I’d have no qualms giving this series to my kids. Safe and often silly, with a strong-voiced cast and honest emotions. I wasn’t dazzled, but I was satisfied. I’ll give Bookmarks Are People Too seven of ten stars, and I’ll be checking out his adventures in the next reading level. (7★).