Friday, March 26, 2010

Hey, Man! Kosher!

So Punk Rock by Micol Ostow with illustrations by David Ostow may be, when all is said and done, a bit of a generic, "Let's start a band!" book. Main character wants to be cool, pulls a group of kids together, finds a little success, has the big gig, realizes that the things he thought he wanted are not what he wanted at all. What makes the book different is that it is so...Jewish. And if you're not Jewish, it is such a pleasure to read about a contemporary real teen world you don't know a whole lot about.

If there are dozens of YA books out there about the teenage Jewish punk rock scene, please let me know. I'm sure not aware of them.

Our narrator, Ari Abramson, has a very laid back, dry wit. He is into irony. He's a junior at Leo R. Gittleman Jewish Day School where around sixty-four percent of the student body is "religious enough to find ourselves in a school where learning Hebrew, Torah, and Rabbinics is valued as much as learning English, history, and math--but not, you know, hard core about it." Since something similar can be said about the Christian church I sort of attend ("We're Christians, but let's not get ridiculous about it."), I definitely felt some common ground with this boy.

I don't see a lot of kids' or YA books that recognize the fact that many, many young people are involved in religious practice. I'm not even talking about what kids believe, just the fact that they attend services, receive religious instruction, etc. I found that here in a book with the words "Punk Rock" in the title.

While I enjoyed the graphic elements, I didn't pick up on their significance (a character was creating them), until the end. I may have stumbled with my reading (which has happened before) or they may not have been integrated into the story as well as they might have been.

Nonetheless, an enjoyable read.

Check out an interview with the author and illustrator at Cynsations.

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