Zeke’s birthday is coming up, and he wants to have a really exciting party. The problem is, if he wants to invite lots of people, his parents say he has to have his party at home, and not at the Thrillsville amusement park. This wouldn’t be so bad, except that two other kids in Zeke’s class are having parties the same weekend. Owen, the most popular boy, is taking the entire class to Thrillsville, and evil Grace Chang’s party will have a magician, games, and lots of great food. Defeated, Zeke decides to cancel his party, only to learn later on that sometimes a simple party is a lot more fun.
I really like the way author DL Green takes on realistic childhood problems in her Zeke Meeks books. Birthday parties, for example, are such a big deal in elementary school, and the worst thing that can happen to the birthday boy is that another child’s party steals his guests away. In this book, Green taps into the anxieties kids feel about that situation and weaves a believable and satisfying story surrounding them.
Zeke’s thoughts throughout the story really sound like those of a real eight-year-old. I love his exasperation with his little sister’s favorite TV character, Princess Sing-Along, who sings about everything from personal hygiene to flatulence. I’m sure Zeke’s feelings about Princess Sing-Along mirror many brothers’ real life objections to Dora the Explorer and Disney Princesses. I also like the way Zeke interacts with Grace Chang, worrying that she will scratch him to death with her fingernails. Good and evil are so black and white for third graders, and Green takes a comic approach to characterization that really drives that idea home.
In addition to great characterization, this book also has a strong, well-charted plot. Every detail in the first half of the story comes around again to tie up the ending, That’s not to say that things are wrapped up too neatly, but that there is a reason for many of the events of the story, and a satisfying culmination of those events. The message - that simple is sometimes better - is also handed down from a child’s point of view. Parents will have no problem getting behind that message, but it’s not preachy. Zeke comes to his realization on his own, based on his own experiences, and explains his new point of view on his own terms.
This chapter book provides plenty of support for newer readers. Each supporting character has a particular trait that is mentioned each time the character appears in a new scene. This helps readers keep track of the characters and remember who is who, especially if a character is not in every chapter. There is also a great glossary at the back of the book, which in a style similar to the Aldo Zelnick series, defines unfamiliar words in kid-friendly terms. And of course, the design of the book is very visually appealing, filled with cartoonish drawings, big, bold fonts, and representations of each of the characters.
I recommend Zeke Meeks Vs. the Big Blah-Rific Birthday to third graders - both boys and girls, and both reluctant and enthusiastic readers. There are many other books about Zeke, including Zeke Meeks Vs. the Putrid Puppet Pals, which I have previously reviewed.
I received a digital ARC of Zeke Meeks Vs. the Big Blah-Rific Birthday from Capstone Young Readers via NetGalley.