January 23, 2023

I Got You Babe (Orca Currents)

Written by Paul Coccia
Orca Book Publishers
120 pp.
Ages 9-13
RL 2.1
February 2023
Twelve-year-old Mac Riley has lots of ideas. He has lots of big ideas. His ideas are so big that they are almost overwhelming. In fact, his ideas may be just a little too big especially if he can't see that they may be jeopardizing some of his relationships.
When Charles Middle School's parent association, headed by Mac's dad, meet to discuss their annual fundraising Fun Fair, students which include Mac and best friend Amy are invited to attend. Mac, with Amy's tech assistance, suggests that they redo their boring Fun Fair with a Pride-themed event that is fresh and inclusive. Mac, who loves a bit of flash, from his clothing to his attitude, suggests everything from a rainbow-striped bouncy castle, a dunk tank and multicoloured cotton candy, to fireworks and a talent show with the winner crowned "Sparkling Crown of the Carnival." Though the committee recognizes that it might be too expensive to have it all and that there might be some pushback, they decide to go ahead. 

But Mac goes a little overboard with his plans, convinced he has something to prove.
"I wasn’t sure they were going to go for the carnival idea. Now that they have, it’s like I’ve got something to prove. It has to be great. It has to make money. People have got to like it. It needs to be epic.” (pg. 19)
Though Amy reminds him that the carnival isn't about him, Mac just steamrolls ahead with his plans, including planning on him and Amy winning the lip sync contest by depicting Cher and Sonny respectively. Amy tries to tell him that she's apprehensive of dressing like Sonny while Mac gets to dress in drag, but he just demands they rehearse daily and that she tries harder. 

Mac might be following the "go big or go home" precept but he doesn't realize that he's acting like the carnival is all about him. He may want to emulate the strong woman that Cher is but, instead of focusing on her iconic nature, he's acting like a diva. Will the Pride Carnival be the inclusive success Mac envisions or is he putting his relationships in jeopardy, and about to suffer the same fate as the famous duo, just to prove something?

If you don't know Sonny and Cher's song "I Got You Babe," take a listen to any version, video or audio, of Sonny Bono's song. It's catchy and heartening and will remind you that support doesn't require anything but being there. The song may be about a romantic relationship, but Paul Coccia's story goes beyond that singular type of relationship. I Got You Babe tells us that whether it's a friendship or a parent-child relationship or even self-love, support with understanding for strengths and flaws helps us through. Mac is imperfect–aren't we all?–but he learns from his mistakes and he does so  because there are those that support him, like his friend Amy and his father and his mother. With that kind of support, anything is possible: growth, love, and even winning a talent show.  And Paul Coccia makes us realize that it's all possible. This hi-lo (high interest, low vocabulary) story may be written at an easier reading level for middle-grade readers but its story is accessible to everyone. Paul Coccia writes a story about kids that are thinking outside the box and wanting to do interesting things. But what they get, in addition to a great school fundraising event, is learning that others have their back and that's something we all need to know.

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Image from Orca Book Publishers
We're going to help get the hype going for this new novel that comes out February 14, 2023. Along with  this review, I'll be posting an interview with author Paul Coccia tomorrow with student Hasini. And here is the book trailer for I Got You Babe from Orca Book Publishers.

Uploaded by Orca Book Publishers on January 23, 2023 to YouTube.

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