Thursday, November 5, 2009

Part-y!

Literature does enjoy its loveable nerds, probably more than we do in life. Oggie Cooder is a particularly clueless capital-L loser 4th grader, but he's definitely an appealing hero. Oggie Cooder, Party Animal is the second story Sarah Weeks has penned about him. Oggie is the only child of organic, hippie parents who own a resale store (To Good to be Threw), and they support his idiosyncrasies. Oggie's closet is supplied by the store and he doesn't really care whether things "go together," he makes a "prrrrip" sound with his tongue when he's excited, he crochets his own shoelaces, and he "charves." That's chewing processed cheese into shapes -- usually the shapes of states.

Mostly, his classmates ignore him, which probably saddens Oggie, except that he seems largely oblivious. He does have one friend, Amy, the quiet girl with braces. The person who seems most bothered by Oggie is his neighbor, Donnica Perfecto, the 4th grade's queen bee (she has two acolytes who finish her words, a la LO - ser). Unbeknownst to him, Oggie defeated Donnica's plans for stardom in the first book. In Party Animal, she has been forced to invite Oggie to her birthday pool party and she is not happy. So, she creates a list of 100 things that Oggie cannot do at her party and insists that he memorize it before she'll let him in the door. With the help of Amy, Oggie does memorize the list (think mnemonics), but Donnica still comes up with a way to keep him away. Oggie's gentle nature prevails, and the book ends with Donnica in his debt (although she doesn't see it that way).

William Dufris narrates this book. As he did when he read Homer P. Figg, Dufris adopts a high, squeaky narrator voice that sounds like it's painful to produce, but is completely fine on the ears. (Well, I wouldn't want to listen to hours and hours of it.) As is appropriate for the voice of Bob the Builder, Dufris captures Oggie's awkwardness and naïveté with that high-pitched voice. He conveys Oggie's exciteability with a fast-paced delivery. And, he does a pretty good job of "prrrrip-ing." He's able to move from character to character, so I particularly enjoyed his alpha side coming out via Donnica. That girl means business.

This is a good middle elementary school story. There's enough humor and grossology to satisfy most readers and listeners, and the world is always aligned correctly by the end, but without a message informing you of the fact. I always wonder though, will an alpha girl recognize herself and be kinder to the geeky kids once she reads this book? Likely not, that 4th grade mean girl is probably reading Twilight.

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