Being a fan of gnomes, I was intrigued by Going Bovine when I saw the cover art. We meet Cameron who is your typical angst-y teen who hates....everyone. But, when Cameron gets sick and ends up in the hospital sharing a room with his dwarf classmate he realizes he needs to escape! He has to hit the road and make it to the super spring break bash in Florida. They acquire a yard gnome that is actually a Norse God that now must serve Cameron since Cameron rescued him. The group has a crazy trip to Florida, which includes bending time and meeting Schroedinger's Cat. Are their shenanigans part of Cameron's reality or are they just the hallucinations brought on by his Mad Cow Disease addled brain?
Going Bovine was fun, interesting and exciting. The length may be a little daunting for some readers, but at the rate the pages turn, they won't even notice. The story's timeline can be confusing at times because Cameron himself is confused about the time quite often. Part of his mad cow disease hospital experience is that he often floats in and out of reality. Most of the story, is (I think, assuming I didn't get confused myself!) part of his hallucination and hospital dream. Overall, it is a pretty good book and I think it would be a good read for male and female students, which says a lot since so many teen books these days are written to favor one gender or the other.
This decidedly fantastical premise mixes with armchair physics and time-travel theory as they make their way from Texas to Florida. Or possibly Cameron is just hallucinating his way through his last days in a hospital bed. Whichever view of this at times too-sprawling tale readers take, along the way there is plenty of delightfully funny dialogue (“Okay, Balder? Could you and your Norse goodness do me a solid and take a hike? I need a minute here”) and enough real character development, in spite of all the purposefully zany details, to cause genuine concern for their respective fates. Fans of the author’s previous works will not be disappointed, and it may appeal to science-fiction and fantasy fans with a taste for dry humor as well. (Fantasy. 14 & up)
This would be a fun book to share excerpts from with a high school biology or physics class. Since the characters have a run in with physicists playing with the space/time continuum it would be great for use in a physics class. In biology, since nearly the entire book is a hallucination, it would be great for use when discussing the effects of bacteria and disease on the body. Also, in a high school English class, I would recommend sharing the author interview on goingbovine.com and discussing the author's personality and how it comes out in the book. She seems like a creative and quirky person and to me, her personality shines in the book.
Summary-Bud, Not Buddy
When we meet Bud, we find him living in an orphanage, dreading the day that they come to tell him he's going to live with a new family. When that day comes, Bud acts mature and polite to his family, but the oldest child in the family is mean! He beats him up and blames Bud for their fight. Since the family doesn't trust Bud, they make him sleep in their scary, dark tool shed until they can send him back to the orphanage. Bud decides he is not going to go back to the orphanage to get in trouble, so he runs away. He has made up his mind to live in Hooverville, but when he learns what Hooverville really is and the Hooverville he finds is broken up, he has to move on. And move on he does! He hitches a ride to Flint to find the man he thinks is his Daddy! Bud doesn't really know what to expect when he gets to Flint, but I bet he didn't imagine he'd do so well!
Bud, Not Buddy is a fantastic book for 4-8th grade students. I liked it so much, that I did a book trailer on it! Feel free to watch the trailer! I was really impressed by the way the author painted the situation of the great depression. I had never heard of Hoovervilles, but the soup kitchen, the people looking out for each other and the whole situation of the Hooverville was very enlightening. I also found it interesting that Buddy's "dad" has a band that changes its name almost as often as they changed their socks. The only thing that never changed was that he was still in the band. It is a pretty typical situation for musicians to change bands often, but I like that it is subtly shown here.
Carol Hurst, reviewer, summarizes Bud very well when she says, "Bud's irrepressible good nature, his innocence and his survival skills make him memorable. His literal interpretation of language, his belief system which includes vampires, tokens and ritual behavior all serve to allow us to see the world through the eyes of a ten year old."
I would recommend using this book in conjunction with a history lesson about life during the Great Depression. Students could see what life was like for people then and understand how down life had gotten for people.
Bray, L. (2009). Going Bovine. New York: Delacourt.
Curtis, C. P. (1999). Bud, Not Buddy. New York: Delacourt.
Hurst, C. (2001, April 16). Bud, Not Buddy. Retrieved March 19, 2011, from Carol Hurst: http://www.carolhurst.com/titles/budnotbuddy.html
Unknown. (2009, August 15). Going Bovine. Retrieved April 18, 2011, from Kirkus Reviews: http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/childrens-books/libba-bray/going-bovine/?spdy=2009