Zeke Meeks vs. the Putrid Puppet Pals. by D.L. Green. February 1, 2012. Picture Window Books. 128 pages. ISBN: 9781404868038.
Zeke Meeks vs. the Putrid Puppet Pals is the story of a childhood toy fad and how it affects the one boy in class who is just not into it. The puppet pals - like real-life Beanie Babies, Furbies, and Silly Bandz - have taken over Zeke’s class. The puppets aren’t particularly interesting, but some of them are supposedly collectible, and all the kids Zeke knows, including his best friend, have gone totally crazy buying, trading and playing with them. Zeke finds it more and more difficult to find friends to play with at recess, and he finds himself faced with two options - either embrace the fad he so despises, or find a way to put a stop to it.
I thought the idea of a toy fad was the perfect subject for a chapter book. All kids can relate to these crazes, which seem to come around every couple of years, and I’m sure not all of them fall instantly in love, even if their friends are obsessed with the latest big thing. This book is published by Capstone, which is known for publishing high interest books that appeal to reluctant readers, and Zeke Meeks vs. the Putrid Puppet Pals definitely fits that bill. The design of the book, and its many illustrations and embellishments make it look a lot like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, but the reading level makes it more appropriate for the slightly younger audiences, of second-, third-, and fourth-graders who might not be ready to read Wimpy Kid just yet.
I loved the way the author depicted Zeke’s hatred for the puppets, but also occasionally allowed him to covet the puppets as well, out of a desire to fit in and to have playmates again. I thought the psychology of that was really interesting, and it made Zeke so much more real and relatable. My only complaint is that, out of nowhere, toward the end of the book, Zeke references the book itself as though he is aware he is in a story. I found that distracting, and it sort of took away from the realism of the rest of the story, which never breaks the fourth wall in any way.
All in all, though, this is a clever, funny, and timely tale that will appeal to boys or girls. The way the story ends doesn’t necessarily indicate that Zeke’s friends have learned anything from their Puppet Pals experience, but the entire story raises important questions about materialism and the way certain products are marketed to kids.
Recommend this book to kids you know who have enjoyed Big Nate, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Amelia Rules, and Alvin Ho. Zeke Meeks vs. the Putrid Puppet Pals will be published February 1, 2012.
I received a digital ARC of Zeke Meeks vs. the Putrid Puppet Pals from Capstone via NetGalley.
For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.
NOTE ADDED 10/26/12: This book was nominated for the 2012 Cybils Awards in the Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book category. I am a first-round panelist in this category, but this review reflects my opinions only, not those of any other panelist, or the panel as a whole. Thanks!