My father, the King
The art of comedy involves taking a normally awkward situation and giving it just enough absurdity to make someone laugh. Take Josh Greenwood's situation: he's embarrassed by his father. Every kid alive has been embarrassed by their parents—we look at it as part of the job description, kids—but in Shelley Pearsall's new book, All Shook Up, Josh's dad, Jerry Denny, has taken this duty to unimagined heights.
When Josh's grandma breaks her hip, his mother has to travel to Florida to nurse her back to health, and Josh, who normally experiences his dad's "garlic and cigarette smoke hugs" during short holiday visits, is faced with an extended stay, not to mention a new school. When he arrives on his Boston to Chicago flight, he quickly realizes that his worst fears have fallen far short of reality. His dad looks different; he's wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses, and his normally brown hair has been dyed a slick, glossy black. Shortly thereafter he discovers to his horror that his father has lost his job as a shoe salesman, and has chosen a completely unexpected career path—as an Elvis Presley impersonator!
The seventh-grader is faced with trying to adjust, which means doing his best to fit in and trying to find his place on the Charles W. Lister middle school social ladder, all while dealing with the new people in his life. There's Gladys, the slightly addled elderly woman down the street who makes his dad's "Elvis scarves"; Viv, his dad's new girlfriend, who runs a vintage clothing store; and most importantly, Ivory, Viv's daughter, who goes to his school, and who knows his secret shame.
When his dad is asked to perform at a school function, Josh launches a desperate scheme to prevent his appearance, but things quickly go from bad to worse, and he finds out that maybe his dad isn't as crazy as he thought. All Shook Up is alternately wry, silly, thoughtful and laugh-out-loud funny. It will appeal to any kids who've been mortified by their parents—namely, all of them. And it just might launch a new generation of Elvis fans!
James Neal Webb hopes you enjoyed this review. Thankyouverramuch.