Are you the kind of reader that loves it when an author tries something a little bit different…and NAILS it? Me too. Happily, today’s offering is from an author that does just that. Rhyme Schemer by K.A. Holt is a verse novel for a middle grade audience, so I suspected when I requested it for review that I would probably enjoy it. What did surprise me was the way that Holt has managed to create a clever, funny and sensitive novel that hits all the right notes and authentically portrays the troubles and triumphs of a young lad who is considered to be a bit of a ne’er-do-well. So, in fact, I ended up loving it. Hurrah!
If you were to describe Kevin as a class bully, you would not be too far off the mark. Kevin has a reputation for being the kind of guy who might hide all your pencils. And then politely inform you that your pencils are missing. And then laugh at you. Kevin also has four older brothers and two parents who don’t have a lot of time for him. Kevin also has a particular skill in manipulating pages in classic children’s stories and posting them around the school. But when a classmate discovers Kevin’s love of poetry, he suddenly realises how much of an impact words can have on other people. Is it too late for Kevin to redeem himself? Or is he going to be stuck as the villain of the story forever?
*you’ve ever thought that many classic children’s books could do with a cheeky, handwritten makeover
*you’ve ever felt like the smallest fish in a very large pond…comprised mostly of annoying brother fish
*you’ve ever had a secret passion for something that might be considered a bit embarrassing were it to be revealed in public
*you’re looking for a book with an authentic male protagonist that features poetry in a clever and very engaging way
As someone who enjoys the odd bit of poetry (and a bit of odd poetry) this book could not have been more perfect. It is a super-quick read – I think I read it in two sittings, but could easily have managed it in one – and has a storyline that had me glued to the pages. The book opens with Kevin revealing that he is the mastermind behind a spate of guerilla-poetry attacks, in which pages torn from classic children’s books have been manipulated with pencil to create funny new poems and stuck up around his school. If you can’t imagine what I mean, here’s a handy illustration from the book to demonstrate:
Kevin is a self-proclaimed bully who seems to take great delight in humiliating others, but as we move deeper into Kevin’s journal, we quickly discover that he has family problems that may account, in some part, for his less-than-kind behaviour towards his classmates. It’s really hard to dislike Kevin though, as his voice is at once self-promoting and self-deprecating – he knows that his behaviour is not winning him friends, but he also seems to know that he has a gift that might open up some opportunities for him if he can keep out of trouble.
This is an ingenious new take on the moving-into-the-teenage-years style of story that will most definitely appeal to kids in the target age group because of the style of humour and excellent characterisation. I suspect this will also appeal to those with a subversive streak (including, but not limited to, reluctant readers and those who like to deface library books), and those who are just looking for a familiar story of friendship and personal growth told in a fun, accessible fashion.
Actually, writing this review has done two things: it’s encouraged me to pick up That Shakespeare Kid, another verse novel that’s been sitting on my TBR pile for at least six months, and it’s also reminded me to put Rhyme Schemer on my Christmas list. Because now I wish to own it in print, not least because it features the funniest collections on the subject of the school principal’s tie ever written.
Until next time,