Todd Hasak-Lowy’s first book for young readers, 33 Minutes . . . Until Morgan Sturtz Kicks My Butt, is a funny story with some serious insights about middle grade boys and their friendships. While there are a lot of books out there about the friendships of girls, it’s easy to forget that boys have their own codes and paths of growth as they navigate into adulthood. 33 Minutes allows us to peak inside and see how a boy’s brain works.
The first chapter begins on a day in school at 11:41 a.m.—33 minutes until recess and the butt-kicking that Morgan plans to do to our narrator, Sam Lewis. The last chapter ends at 1:16 that afternoon, but Sam manages to tell us all we need to know in that short time. How, for instance, he and Morgan have been best friends for years but now Morgan is so angry that he can barely look at his former pal. Sam explains how the new kid Chris comes between them, along with divergent interests in football and academics, but he is hesitant to say what one thing happened that prompted Morgan to want to beat him up. By the time Sam tells us about the incident, we understand that it wasn’t just that one thing, that there were numerous little things that added up to a busted friendship.
Hasak-Lowy’s fast-paced book keeps the reader wondering—and dying to know—about Sam and what he’s going to do as the fight approaches. The story is about growing up and moving on, but It’s told with great humor as Sam tries to figure his way out of the mess. Bethany Barton’s illustrations add an immediate quality with hand-drawn pictures and funny lists. Morgan and Sam do not end up as you might expect, but the conclusion is highly satisfactory.
Hasak-Lowy has created a genuine voice in Sam Lewis, one with which any reader, whether jock or nerd, can sympathize.