Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate
Author: Janet Tashjian
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Umberto is the new kid at school, but Derek's curiosity and desire to help him unexpectedly backfires. Soon Derek is the butt of Umberto's jokes and the victim of cartoon theft. Ubmerto steals Derek's cartoons and quickly becomes the popular kid. To make matters worse, Umberto is in a wheelchair, complicating his position as the most likable person in class and Derek's personal bully. However, a turn of events requires Derek and Umberto to work together.
Tashjian has changed the disability conversation in multiple ways. First, Umberto’s disability wasn’t used as a plot-saving problem solver, such as the dues ex machina used in many other stories. Second, Umberto wasn’t a frail, helpless character, but rather the bully. While the plot itself was basic, these important underpinnings are progressive and diverse and challenge traditional disability views. Students and English language learners who enjoy the Dork Diaries or the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series will enjoy the cartoons in this book as well.