Review of And Then, Boom!

And Then, Boom! And Then, Boom!
by Lisa Fipps
Intermediate, Middle School    Paulsen/Penguin    260 pp.
5/24    9780593406328    $17.99
e-book ed.  9780593406335    $10.99

Sixth grader Joseph Oaks claims he isn’t a superhero (even if he did fly like Superman once): “I don’t have any special powers—unless / you count my ability to be invisible, / and to survive.” Joe’s mother gets what he calls “The Itch” and disappears for “days. / Weeks. / Months. / You never know when she’ll take off / or when she’ll come back.” Thus, Joe “know[s] a lot of things / kids shouldn’t / have / to know,” including housing insecurity (Joe and Grandmum live in her car), poverty, and hunger. Things start to look up when they find “The Overripe Banana,” a mobile home in King of the Castle Mobile Home Park. Once settled in, Joe considers his favorite possession, the quilt Grandmum made years ago: he understands that “Grandmum’s the thread / holding her, Mom, and me, / separate pieces so different from each other, / together / as a family.” Supporting characters, including Joe’s teacher, his friends Nick and Hakeem, and the mobile home park’s compassionate owner, are well drawn and vividly portrayed. As in Starfish (rev. 5/21), Fipps uses short lines, lots of white space, and an engaging first-person voice to carry the story. A fine example of how a novel in verse can be the perfect vehicle for getting inside the head of a character and creating empathy for what it’s like to be him.

From the May/June 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches eighth grade English at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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