Category Archives: Random House Books for Young Readers

Review: Finding the Worm by Mark Goldblatt

finding the wormTitle: Finding the Worm by Mark Goldblatt
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Genre: Historical (70s), Young Adult, Fiction
Length: 354 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher


The New York Post praised Twerp as “reminiscent of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Finding the Worm is a sequel that stands on its own–an unforgettable coming-of-age story about life, loss, and friendship. Perfect for fans of The Sandlot and readers who love books by Jennifer L. Holm, Andrew Clements, and Rebecca Stead.

It’s not a test unless you can fail. . . .

Trouble always seems to find thirteen-year-old Julian Twerski. First it was a bullying incident, and now he’s been accused of vandalizing a painting. The principal doesn’t want to suspend him again, so instead, he asks Julian to write a 200-word essay on good citizenship. Julian writes 200 no’s instead, and so begins an epic struggle between Julian and his principal.

Being falsely accused is bad enough, but outside of school, Julian’s dealing with even bigger issues. His friend Quentin has been really sick. How can life be fair when the nicest guy in your group has cancer? Julian’s faith and friendships are put to the test . . . and the stakes have never been higher.


In Finding the Worm, Mark Goldblatt revisits Julian “Twerp” Twerski and his friends and this outing is just as charming and thought-provoking as its predecessor, Twerp. This newest release is also a lot more poignant as thirteen year old Julian and his pals learn one of life’s harshest lessons when one of their friends is diagnosed with cancer.

Just before Christmas of 1969, Julian and his friends, Lonnie, Eric, Howie, Shlomo and Beverly are called to the guidance counselor’s office where they are learn that their close friend, Quentin, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The group is shaken by the news and although they are reassured that he will be fine, the kids are still worried. Julian takes his concerns to Rabbi Salzberg (whom they have nicknamed Magoo) who then uses Julian’s bar mitzvah preparation to give him a few life lessons in addition to his haftarah instruction.

While Julian is trying to make sense of Quentin’s illness, the school principal accuses him of defacing a painting. Since he was suspended from school the previous year, Julian’s punishment is to write a 200 word essay on good citizenship. His pleas of innocence fall on deaf ears, and Julian is soon locked in a battle of wills with the principal as week after week, he turns in essays that are about everything except good citizenship. Since he refuses to take the punishment seriously, the principal ups the ante and Julian knows he is beat, but it is not until Julian discovers the perpetrator’s identity that he turns in an incredibly insightful essay that shows remarkable maturity.

Despite their worries and Quentin’s fragile health, Julian and the gang find plenty of time to enjoy being kids. They spend quite a bit of free time at Quentin’s apartment since he is still recovering from surgery but they do get a few opportunities to have some outdoor fun as well. Baseball player Bobby Murcer makes a guest appearance that shows the depth of Quentin and Julian’s friendship although all of the kids benefit from Murcer’s generosity.

Finding the Worm is another entertaining and very heartwarming novel of friendship by Mark Goldblatt. Both humorous and heartbreaking, I highly recommend this marvelous story to readers of all ages. Although it is the sequel to Twerp, the story can be read as a standalone.

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Filed under Fiction, Historical (70s), Mark Goldblatt, Random House Books for Young Readers, Rated A, Review

Review: Twerp by Mark Goldblatt

Title: Twerp by Mark Goldblatt
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Historical (60s), Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


It’s not like I meant for Danley to get hurt. . . .

Julian Twerski isn’t a bully. He’s just made a big mistake. So when he returns to school after a weeklong suspension, his English teacher offers him a deal: if he keeps a journal and writes about the incident that got him and his friends suspended, he can get out of writing a report on Shakespeare. Julian jumps at the chance. And so begins his account of life in sixth grade–blowing up homemade fireworks, writing a love letter for his best friend (with disastrous results), and worrying whether he’s still the fastest kid in school. Lurking in the background, though, is the one story he can’t bring himself to tell, the one story his teacher most wants to hear.

Inspired by Mark Goldblatt’s own childhood growing up in 1960s Queens, Twerp shines with powerful writing that will have readers laughing and crying right along with these flawed but unforgettable characters.

The Review:

Mark Goldblatt’s Twerp is an engaging coming of age story that is witty and thought-provoking. Although categorized as young adult fiction, this charming novel will resonate with readers of all ages.

Julian Twerski really loathes Shakespeare, so when his sixth grade English teacher Mr. Selkirk offers him to let him keep a journal in lieu of writing a report on Julius Caesar, Julian eagerly agrees. Of course Mr. Selkirk has an ulterior motive: he wants Julian to write about the incident that resulted in a school suspension for Julian and his friends. Instead of writing about what happened to Danley Dimmel, Julian gives a pretty captivating account of the various exploits that he and his friends engage in the last six months of the school year.

Set in 1969 New York, Twerp fully captures the freedom experienced by children in that time period. With no cell phones or video games, Julian and his friends are free to roam their neighborhoods with little parental supervision. Their boredom often leads to some creative adventures that sometimes end with disastrous results. In journaling his various escapades, Julian often gains valuable insight about the consequences of their actions.

Julian does an excellent job deflecting Mr. Selkirk’s (and the reader’s) attention away from Danley Dimmel and the events leading up to Julian’s suspension from school. Julian makes brief references to both Danley and the suspension, but he never gives away any details about what happened. This build-up to the final revelation in the journal is crucial to the novel’s resolution and everyone’s patience is well rewarded in the end.

Twerp is an entertaining and fascinating novel about adolescence and friendship. Mark Goldblatt’s humorous look into the inner working of a child’s mind is as illuminating as it is amusing. As the mother of two sons, I can attest to the authenticity of both the characters and the crazy situations they find themselves in.

A wonderful story that teaches some pretty valuable lessons, I highly recommend Twerp to readers of all ages.

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Filed under Fiction, Historical (60s), Mark Goldblatt, Random House Books for Young Readers, Rated A, Review, Twerp, Young Adult