by Maggie Lyons
Halo Publishing International (SP)
Back Cover: When he walks through the door and sees the sharky grin on his sister’s face, Vin rightly suspects Meg is hatching a plot. Worse still, he’s central to the outcome. Meg tells him everyone expects him to play her duet for trumpet and piano at the student concert. Vin is horrified. His only escape is to persuade another trumpet player to take his place. Meg has the hunky Brad Stewart in mind, and she challenges Vin to introduce her to him. To do that he must first befriend Brad’s nerdy brother, Eyeballs, the last person Vin wants to be friends with until Meg’s promise of a David Beckham autographed soccer jersey changes the seventh-grader’s mind. He has five days to accomplish his mission—Operation BS.
First Sentence: I knew as soon as I walked through the door they’d hatched some kind of plot.
Note on the Cover: The old cover is on the book I received for review. The new cover is sharper than the older, but looks like a soccer story, which it is not. Soccer practice is mentioned to round out Vin’s character. I think the older cover fits the story perfectly: a story about music. The new cover may appeal more to boys, yet I think they will be disappointed to find this is not a soccer story and put the book down.
Vin and the Dorky Duet is a goofy brother-sister story. Meg wants to play a duet with Brad, a hot, popular guy. She does not think Brad will accept, or even read her music, by simply asking him, so she cons Vin—short for Bevyn—into befriending Brad’s brother Eyeballs. Once accomplished—and these are the funniest sections—Vin must ask Brad, as a friend of his brother, to perform with Meg. If he does not get Brad to say yes, Vin must play the duet against his wishes. He is not given a choice.
Somehow, Meg got their mother to be co-conspirator, telling Vin he must perform the duet with his sister, despite past performances that went badly. This part seemed like Vin was ganged-up on and bullied by both sister and mom. I did not like this beginning. There is no indication of the mother (or father as he went along, more as a sheep), being neglectful, abusive, or even hurtful, making this seem out of character. Maybe Meg was conning her mother as much as her brother.
There were only little conflicts for Vin to complete. The hardest was getting nerdy, friendless Eyeballs to befriend him. The two are conveniently paired for a class project, but Eyeballs still is not interested in a friend or even doing the project together, at least not until . . . Eyeballs learns Vin’s Uncle Jack is the famous marine biologist he idolizes. There are several near misses when Vin tries to talk to Brad, but when he gets his chance, showing Brad Meg’s duet, on sheet music, he immediately agrees to the performance, removing Vin from Meg’s hook. I thought the conflicts were too easily solved, often without much effort on Vin’s part, and possibly by sheer luck.
Vin and the Dorky Duet is a fun story kids will like. The website calls it “a chapter book for middle-graders and tweens.” At 96 pages and short chapters, this could also pass as an early chapter book for newly independent readers. The author developed the story for reluctant readers, according to a biography box. This is a good age to catch those readers before their neglect of reading becomes a bad habit. The chapters are short and each one ends with a little suspense that picks up at the first sentence of the next chapter—perfect for those reluctant readers.
The writing is good, though there are some typos throughout the story, presumably by the printer. I do not think these will bother kids as much as they bother a reviewer. The author constructed a good story, albeit with easily accomplished conflicts. There are no stalls along the way. Ms. Lyons knows how to write for reluctant readers and those kids will like the story and stick with it to the end.
Vin and the Dorky Duet uses themes like friendships, accepting others as they are, sibling relationships, and playing musical instruments is cool all without missing a beat. The plot could have difficult conflicts with a failure or two before success, but the story works great for one segment of Ms. Lyon’s intended readers: reluctant readers. For that group she did a great job!
Awards: Honorable Mention – 2012 New England Book Festival
by Maggie Lyons website blog facebook twitter Halo Publishing International (SP) website blog facebook twitter Released August 1, 2012 ISBN: 978-1-61244=091-0 96 Pages Ages : 7 to 12 . Copyright © 2012 by Maggie Lyons, used with permission.
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