by Karla Oceanak and Kendra Spanjer, illustrator
Age 7 to 13 160 pages
“When your parents name you Also Valentine Zelnick because you were born on February 14th, you know you’ve got a boyhood of Valentine’s misery ahead. But this year when my 11th birthday rolled around I decided to pretend Valentine’s Day didn’t exist. At my party there would be no pink, no hearts, no girls, no dancing, and no romance of any kind, thank you very much. Instead, us dudes would shoot bows and arrows, wrestle, feast on hot wings, and play video games. It would be the Best. Birthday. Ever. Only trouble is, my friend-who-happens-to-be-a-girl, Bee, wanted to be invited, and then she got a hold of this sketchbook, and then . . . welp, (sic) I guess you’ll have to read it to learn the inconceivable ending.”
“I’d like to start my sketchbook with a question for the Guy in charge of the getting-born schedule: WHY, WHY, WHY DID MY BIRTHDAY HAVE TO BE FEBRUARY 14TH??? It causes infinite* humiliation.”
“*infinite (pg. 11): forever and ever and ever . . . ad nauseum”
Aldo is turning eleven-years-old and decides to take over the party planning from his mother. Mom decorates his party like it’s Valentine’s Day . . . because it is. Poor Aldo had it worse than if his birthday had fallen on December 25th. This year, Aldo is deciding on everything. Instead of little cupids firing arrows at love-struck individuals, the boys would shoot arrows at each other. Hearts, the color pink, dancing, and GIRLS not allowed. Mom is upset. She likes hearts, the color pink, dancing, and all other things Valentine’s Day and likes making them part of Aldo’s birthday party.
Aldo is also an artist, drawing in a diary, um, journal . . . oh, sketchbook, nearly every day. He also carries it with him most of the time. He and Bee—his only girl friend—got into a contest. Whoever wins chooses the prize. Bee won and chose an invitation to Aldo’s boys-only birthday party. Aldo refused. She then decided she wanted to be co-creator of his sketchbook. Aldo again said no, but two refusals in a row would not work with Bee. They had an agreement. Bee became co-creator of Aldo’s sketchbook.
The days leading up to the big day went a bit sideways. Bee is adding a women’s touch to the sketchbook, much to Aldo’s fury. Brother Timothy has a girlfriend, as does his friend Mr. Mots, and best friend Jack’s dad. It seems nearly everyone was falling under Cupid’s spell, even Bee. Aldo tries hard to forget about Valentine’s Day. He refuses to hand out valentines at school or—mom’s order—accept any from the other kids, including the candy that went with most cards. That was the cruel part, if you asked Aldo. But, regardless of what was happening around him, Aldo was finally having the birthday of his dreams. A birthday with no hearts, no pink, no dancing, no girls.
Ignoramus, book number nine in this twenty-six book series, continues the life of Aldo Valentine Zelnick.* Like the others, difficult or unusual words beginning with the letter “I”, such as intermingling, ignominious, itinerary, and iota are highlighted—look in Hotdogger—and then defined in an “I” glossary after the story. By the end of the series, the glossaries will be a short dictionary of unusual words. The books will be a history of growing up as a boy (and possibly as a nerd). This is quite an accomplishment to a write 26 books series. Avid readers will be in their twenties when the series ends. I can see father and son reading this series together—for the first time.
As Aldo turns eleven and on the edge of becoming a teen, he starts to show ore command of his own actions. He is obviously not a fan of Valentine’s Day as it has intruded upon his birthday the past ten years. Standing up to mom and declaring he is taking care of his own party plans . . . and then following through, is a big step. Continuing his stand against Valentine’s Day, Aldo refuses to hand out the cute valentines his mother bought for him. Jack tries to sneak Aldo a peanut butter cup and though mom was not there to see it Aldo still refused and held to his “no valentines” decision.
Soon Aldo will be asking girls out and fretting about the process. For now, he is still a child and I like that. Many books mature kids much sooner than necessary, so it is nice to have a book that does not encourage this. Ignoramus lets kids be kids. The writing and illustrations are reminiscent of The Wimpy Kid, but I think the story is better. Ignoramus is not a graphic novel in the classic style. There is a great amount of normal text, which keeps the story fluid and a lot of fun. I love the illustrations by “Bee” and Aldo’s reactions to them. Being a girl and stubborn, Bee ignores Aldo. He must learn how to deal with the hearts and flowers decorating his journal, uh sketchbook.
I enjoyed Ignoramus and think kids in middle grade–especially reluctant readers–will love Aldo and his friends and family. The characters are believable, dimensional, likable and in many ways familiar to everyday life. Reluctant readers will appreciate the story staying on track and its short chapters. Kids can stop reading at any point. When they begin reading again, they will have no trouble reemerging themselves back into the story. This is most terrific for reluctant readers who are at a distinct disadvantage with continuing a book midway through.
For me, the pages flew by and it was hard to put this addition of Aldo’s life down until I had reached the end. No worries though. There is a jackpot on its way. Ignoramus is number nine in this ambitious series of twenty-six proposed books. Next is the letter “J” for Jackpot. It looks like the Zelnicks are going on vacation. Catch the review right here once it is ready. Until then, Ignoramus is a good start to this wonderful, crazy, series. So far, the books can stand on their own, so if you are not one to start your ABCs with the letter “A,” start it with “I” because Ignoramus is an instant hit.
* Hotdogger, Glitch, Finicky, Egghead, Dumbstruck, Cahoots, Bogus!, and Artsy-Fartsy
Hotdogger reviewed HERE
Learn more about Ignoramus HERE.
IGNORAMUS. Text copyright © 2013 by Karla Oceanak. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Kendra Spanjer. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Bailiwick Press, Fort Collins CO.
.ALSO IN THE SERIES