Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

Spring 2010 Fiction
Ages: 12 - 10 yrs.
Author: Josh Berk
ISBN: 9780375856990
Hardcover Price: $16.99

Will Halpin is an unlikely hero. Overweight and deaf, he's the new sophomore at Carbon High. He is also the highly engaging narrator of Josh Berk's spry story.

Will - screen name "HamburgerHalpin" - has just transferred from the deaf school to the public school because he wants to go mainstream. Plus, as he observes in perfect teenaged boy pitch, the public school girls are "freaking hot". Berk captures life as a 16-year-old boy spot-on, and then enriches it with what makes Will unique. The charm of the book is that Will's deafness is just an intriguing element. The true disability - fitting in at school - is universal.

The book's plot is the mysterious death of Pat Chambers, the most popular boy in school, while on a class field trip. But while the murder mystery is appealing, the real story is Will's transformation. At the start of the year he's uncertain and angry, but by the end of the book he's a self-assured young man. He finds friendship, flirtations, and even reconnects with his deaf school past.

Will is a great teen narrator. He stumbles through typical teenage challenges - crushes, bullies, finding a lunch seat - with a certain charm. The perspective of a deaf narrator lends insight and humor. Will has perfected lip-reading on the sly and he catches more in things unsaid - body language, expressions, murmurs - than his hearing sidekick Devon. He also has a wonderfully dry wit - declaring the school bell "sound-discriminatory," for instance, and signing to his mother at dinner, "don't talk with your hands full."

The language is appealing and fun, the characters find both danger and adventure, and everything comes out all right in the end. Bravo.

Teresa DiFalco   ©2010 Parents' Choice
Teresa DiFalco is an award-winning ghostwriter, writer, and mother in Vancouver, Washington. She's been a contributing editor for Parents' Choice for over ten years. She's a strong speller, a menace at badminton, and makes a decent soufflé.

Look for this product at:
Random House Children's Books/Knopf

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