Retro Friday Review: Tangerine by Edward Bloor

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc
As a parent, I feel like there is often quite a bit of pressure to make sure you instill a love of books and reading into your children at an early age. And since I have a little boy, I'm a little out of my reading comfort zone and therefore constantly on the prowl for books that I think might appeal to him either now or in the future. And just because the little turkey happens to only be two at present doesn't mean that I should wait years to start collecting books he'll like, right? Right. At least that's what I keep telling myself and the clerk at Barnes & Noble.

In my quest for boy-friendly books, I kept hearing good things about this odd middle-grade book called Tangerine by Edward Bloor. My former library co-workers always said it was the perfect boy book: sports, mysterious going-ons, heros, villians, and tangerines. Wait, tangerines? Intrigued ever since, it's been on the list to acquire and when I came across it at my local library booksale the other day, I snatched it up and ran home to start reading right away.

For as long as he can remember, seventh-grader Paul Fisher has lived in the shadow of The Erik Fisher Football Dream. Ever since Paul's older brother Erik kicked his first successful 50 yard field goal, it seems to Paul that the entire Fisher household has revolved around Erik getting a football scholarship in hopes of one day advancing to the Pros. But there are two big things Paul just can't understand: 1) why everyone adores Erik, who he truly knows to be cruel and underhanded, and 2) why those same people are also in love with football. Now soccer, that is a sport Paul can get really get behind. Even though he happens to be legally blind, Paul is a talented goalie and is more than ready for the soccer season to begin at his new middle school in the town of Tangerine, Florida. Though, as usual, Paul is the first to notice that their seemingly idyllic planned community is not what it appears to be as natural disasters strike again and again and neighbors turn against one another; all while football and soccer games continue to be won. And lost.

I can now fully understand why Tangerine is often embraced by educators. Its many themes could easily foster intriguing and highly relevant discussions in any classroom. Truly, it is astounding that such a small book could contain such a wide range of significant topics yet still remain so accessible to teens on a variety of levels. A list of themes discussed include clashes between the haves vs the have-nots, the impact of family relationships, the treatment of those with 'disabilities', environmental issues, race discrimination, and even bullying scenarios. And that's not even a comprehensive list. But even with its appeal to teachers, Tangerine can still readily resonate with any reader be they young or old, student or parent due to the honest and captivating narration of the observant Paul. His voice is clear, insightful, and above all, entertaining. A hero with coke-bottle glasses and courage to spare. I'm glad I found room on my shelves for Paul Fisher and Tangerine. It's one I'll be sure to share with my own son. Even if I have to wait a few more years to read it with him.

book source: purchased


Holly said...

I do not read many boy books. This is definitely going on my TBR list for my son. Thanks!

Angiegirl said...

Nice choice, Michelle. And with my own boy, I'm always on the lookout for good ones to read with him. I like the sound of this one. Thanks for shedding some light on it.

Chachic said...

Sounds like a great book for a boy. I will keep this in mind when someone asks for a recommendation. :)

Unknown said...

I've got to read this one! It has been around for a while. I've had several students that have read it and really liked it - and many of them have been more reluctant readers. Whenever I have a reluctant reader tell me they like I book I'm always interested it in! Thanks for the review.

Michelle said...

Holly - It's one I can see appealing to most boys - and actually one that Jamie from OPL recommended to me. You'll have to tell her thanks for me.

Angie - You are most welcome. I'm not sure why it doesn't get more love. Maybe because it is marketed as Middle-grade? I don't know, but it appeals to a wide audience for sure.

Chachic - It's on my list too!

Jill - Yeah, I read that it just celebrated it's 10th anniversary, so it's been around a bit. But YES! I'd recommend it to any reluctant reader, especially boys - but there are also some nice girl-power moments too, so it can easily work for either gender.

Pam said...

Love your post and insights about the book. I am a substitute teacher and read this book because they study it at the jr. high where I sub. I really enjoyed the book and most of the students (boys and girls) seem to love the book as well. I think it is more appropriate for older kids, like 5th grade at the youngest due to the subject materials (younger kids might not quite get it all).