The True Meaning of Smekday came out in 2007, so this spring's sequel, Smek for President, was an unexpected joy. I read both books with my 11-year-old son, who still lets me read out loud to him, although at this point, I'm afraid that every book is going to be the last. If you've already read the first book, then you'll want to read the second one, which is almost as good as the first. If you haven't yet read The True Meaning of Smekday, here are some reasons that you should give this kid's book with crossover appeal a try:
1) The main character is named "Gratuity"-- her mom liked the sound of it-- but is nicknamed "Tip". This kind of offbeat cleverness runs through both books.
2) Tip is a strong, smart, resourceful girl, AND a girl who just happens to be biracial, in a book that's not about race at all, really.
3) There's an alien from the planet Boov whose name on Earth is inexplicably J-Lo, even though he has nothing to do with Jennifer Lopez-- and he is extraordinarily funny. Seriously. Several times while reading these books, my son and I laughed until we couldn't breathe and our faces were wet with tears.
4) Wildly inventive comics are scattered throughout the book like little treats waiting to be discovered.
5) J-Lo and Tip team up to save the world in an insanely goofy and original way.
6)This story has at its heart a deep and beautiful friendship. It doesn't matter that Tip is human and J-Lo is an alien. They're true to each other.
7) Both books are wonderful read-alouds for an adult and a child to experience together. Honestly, even if you read it to yourself, you're going to want to read parts of it aloud to anyone who happens to be in the room.
I suppose I should mention that there’s a movie based on the first book which was also released this spring. I’m afraid to see it because I can’t believe it’ll be as good as the book, but let me know if I’m wrong, okay? And in the meantime, here’s a list I made of absolutely wonderful read-alouds for a parent to read with children who are perfectly capable of reading to themselves-- but they’ll still allow you the pleasure of reading to them.