February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart | SLJ Audio Review

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redstarGephart, Donna. Lily and Dunkin. 7 CDs. 8 hrs. 48 min. Listening Library. May 2016. $45. ISBN 9780451481962. digital download. Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Gr 5-8 –Lily and Dunkin have a chance meeting just before entering eighth grade and sense an immediate connection; both harbor deep secrets. Gephart expertly weaves the characters’ separate but similar struggles with school, family, and society with concurrent narratives. Lily was assigned male at birth but has always felt she is a girl; she’s pressuring her family to give her hormone blockers as she races toward puberty. Her dad is the holdout, wanting only to protect his child from ridicule and danger. Norbert (who hates that name but loves Dunkin Donuts) has bipolar disorder and has been forced to move in with his grandma after something mysterious happened to his father. During school, a group called the “Neanderthals” attack Lily with insults and bullying, while courting gigantic Dunkin into strengthening their basketball team’s chance at a championship. Lily also gets wrapped up in the city’s decision to cut down her favorite tree, while Dunkin begins skipping his meds in order to perform better on the court. The conclusions are both satisfying and provocative. The narration provided by Ryan Gesell and Michael Crouch is excellent. Also exceptional are the author’s personal notes at the end about how and why this important story came about and Pat Scales’s thought-provoking discussion questions. VERDICT Listeners who enjoyed Jazz Jennings’s Being Jazz or Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting by 7s will appreciate this unique tale, a timely novel suitable for any middle school kid who feels different.–Deb Whitbeck, formerly at West Ottawa Public Schools, Holland, MI

This review was published in the School Library Journal August 2016 issue.