Smiles to Go, Jerry Spinelli

Synopsis: Will Tuppence has just discovered that a proton (what EVERYTHING in the universe is made of) has been destroyed. This upsets him a great deal, because it means nothing can last. Will wants to talk about the implications of protons disappearing at his weekly Monopoly game with his best friends: the adorable theatrical Mi-Su and impulsive, easy-going BT. The news of the proton is overshadowed by BT’s accomplishment: skateboarding down Dead Man’s Hill.

Will contemplates the implications of the proton even more, especially at church, when he decides angels and heaven are non-stuff, so maybe he’ll actually go on forever in that way.  He’d get really wrapped up in it, but snaps out of it frequently because his little sister Tabby keeps bothering him PLUS he’s training for a chess tournament  PLUS he’s worried that Mi-Su likes BT better than him (especially when he catches them kissing). Will talks to BT’s dad about protons, and Mr. Bontempo totally gets it,  but warns Will against sophilism, which means “the self is the only reality” .  Will also asks the five-year old next door Korbet for some love advice, since Korbet  LOVES Tabby but Tabby ignores him. The advice Korbet gives is really encouraging to Will, since Korbet just gets back up and keeps going.

Tabby doesn’t know how to show her big brother she loves him, so she’s super interested in everything he does, all of his buddies, everything. She annoys the loving bejeezus out of him, and Will snaps the day before his chess tournament. He says he won’t go if Tabby goes because she’ll ruin his concentration.  Well, she doesn’t go, and Tabby gets away from the babysitter and skateboards down Dead Man’s Hill. She ends up in the hospital and needs a ventilator to help her breathe, and she’s in an induced coma.  Mrs. Tuppence has a long talk with Will about how he doesn’t seem to care about Tabby, and she asks if he even knows the color of her eyes. He finds out that annoying him is how she shows she loves him.  Tabby wakes up, and everything is better than before now that Will understands his sister a little better.

Bookworm Commentary:
Again with the personal life:
I had this to make my next review and grabbed it on my way out of the door. This was, in fact, a comforting book to me for multiple reasons.   Shall we?

  • BT’s family name, Bontempo, means “good time.”  It truly fits him.
  • The BT family collects stuff for future museums, like, Mr. Bontempo believes trash today will be valuable later.  Will gives them the motto, “Whatever comes here, stays here,” true for old magazines and people.
  • Tabby’s stuffed octopus is filled with black jelly beans (Will’s favorite) that Tabby put in the trash in front of Will, took it out and cleaned them when Will wasn’t looking, and plans to give Will the container of jelly beans for his birthday. Mom says she was replacing the jelly beans before he ate them.
  • BT also recites a Robert Frost poem, which he messes up. Instead of “And miles to go before I sleep,” he changed it to “smiles to go before I weep.”  What an insightful way to look at life.
  • Will needs to lighten up. I think that’s why Tabby exists– to help him lighten up.

Class Stuff:
Grades: Middle School. Sometimes Will is a little too smart for his own good. He’s a really deep thinker. I’d probably put it in 6th and above.
Grade: A+
Spinelli rarely (if ever) misses, and he’s in finest form with this book. BT is a lot like Maniac Magee, one of my favorites, with his legendary acts.  I read this before and was in tears with the Tabby stuff. Will learned a good lesson at the end– it doesn’t matter what happens to those protons a million years from now because RIGHT NOW, someone loves you (even if you’re too stupid to realize it). (Thank you, Mi-Su.) In a week from hell, I found great joy knowing that there were “smiles to go” before I wept, and that Papa would have LOVED that rephrasing of the poem because that’s how he saw life.



Filed under Middle school (6-8), Realistic

2 responses to “Smiles to Go, Jerry Spinelli

  1. Pingback: A depressing personal post, bear with me. | Class Bookworm

  2. homm vool

    loved when bt read to tabby!

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