I admit it. I am a doodler. Sometimes, that’s the only thing that gets me through long, boring meetings or conferences. (You should see my notes from some of my college classes. You can barely make out the actual notes because of all the doodles on the sides of the pages.) I totally sympathize with students who feel the need to draw a little bit when I’m teaching. (I don’t particularly like it when I’m the one doing the teaching, but I do understand it.) Sometimes drawing helps students to focus…and that is the case with the main character in Doodlebug by Karen Romano Young. This book–written almost entirely in doodles–tells about a girl who moves from Los Angeles to San Francisco and how she tries to find her voice–even when it seems like no one understands her.
After a bit of trouble at her school in Los Angeles–and her dad getting a new job–Dodo (real name Doreen) and her family are moving all the way up to San Francisco. Dodo is not really happy about the move, and she decides to cope in her own special way…by doodling. She doodles about her parents, her sister Momo, the new apartment they’re staying in, and her new school. She even uses her doodles to reinvent herself. Dodo is now known as the Doodlebug.
Doodlebug kind of likes her new school. In a very short time, she makes a couple of pretty cool friends. Unfortunately, she also gets in a bit of trouble (also in a very short amount of time). She doesn’t want to screw things up at this school, but she just can’t seem to help it. Things don’t get much better when a couple of her teachers try to make her quit doodling. (The horror!)
While Doodlebug’s worrying about staying out of trouble (or at least covering up the trouble she’s already in), her sister Momo is dealing with her own brand of defiance, and her mom and dad are trying to keep the jobs that brought them to San Francisco in the first place. Doodlebug does her best to be a good student (while still being able to doodle), and she may find some help–with a number of her problems–in some unexpected places.
Doodlebug is yet another nominee for the 2012-2013 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. It’s a good book, an extremely quick read, and it’s different from a lot of other books out there, but part of me feels like it’s more suited to readers in middle school. The main character is kind of sarcastic and has very little problem with rule-breaking. (She is a seventh grader, after all.) She’s impulsive and hard-headed as well. I guess I just think that middle school readers will relate to the character of Doodlebug more that my sweet little angels in elementary school. (See…I can be sarcastic, too!)
Additionally, I don’t think many of my elementary school students will be able to focus on some of the writing in this book. A lot of it is cursive, which can be confusing for kids who’ve never really been exposed to much cursive writing.
Even though I am a visual learner, it was sometimes hard for me to focus while reading this book. My eyes didn’t know where to look first on some of the pages. (I may be visual, but I’m also a very linear thinker. I like order.) Some readers may be turned off by the “busyness” of the pages. On the other hand, it will be just what other readers are looking for.
I would recommend this book to readers in upper elementary (mature 4th or 5th graders) and middle school. It’s a fast read that Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans will most likely enjoy.
If you’d like to learn more about Doodlebug and author Karen Romano Young, visit http://www.karenromanoyoung.com/.