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Spanking Shakespeare    by Jake Wizner & Richard Ewing order for
Spanking Shakespeare
by Jake Wizner
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The protagonist/narrator of Jake Wizner's Spanking Shakespeare sounds somewhat like Winnie the Pooh's Eeyore as he whinges about the trials and tribulations of his life ever since his parents did him the great disservice of naming him Shakespeare Shapiro. Richard Ewing's antic black and white illustrations reinforce the humor in a narrative that's often reminiscent of American Pie.

Now in his senior year of high school, Shakespeare focuses on two things - scoring high in the SAT's and getting laid. He's never even had a girlfriend and refuses to sink low enough to get advice from his younger brother Gandhi (who does have one). In school, Shakespeare is an outsider who hangs out with Neil - whose conversation is limited to his bowel movements - and Katie who makes sure the other two know how pathetic they are. Shakespeare's grades are mostly B's except in Mr. Parke's writing class in which he consistently scores an A. The seniors are required to write a memoir and Shakespeare's hilarious submissions - with titles like The Time My Parents Sent Me to a Camp Straight out of Lord of the Flies and The Time I Visited a Sex Doctor - are regularly read out in class to the author's embarrassment and his classmates' delight (they're also included in the book - don't miss his Noah Revisited).

In parallel with Shakespeare's ongoing angst, he and readers begin to realize that one of his schoolmates truly has a troubled life. Gradually through their senior year, Shakespeare's attention is drawn to Charlotte, a class outsider who often misses school and seems unhappy. When she agrees to Shakespeare's request to look over each other's memoirs, he's flabbergasted by what he learns of her circumstances - and the two develop a romance based on real friendship. As he writes to her at the end of senior year, 'To have a girlfriend who also feels like a best friend is the most wonderful thing I can imagine' - he's right, isn't he?

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