Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli
(audiobook performed by Maxwell Glick and Tara Sands)
This is one of the books in the line up for the School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids' Books. I was surprised to find that Maxwell Glick, who I can't help but think of as Mr. Ricky Collins from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries reading the majority of the tale. I think he was a very good fit.
Hokey Pokey as explained on the back of the disc packaging is the story of Jack, living in a world without grownups, discovering that his bike has been stolen by a girl, Jubilee. Jack goes in search of the bike and his nemesis, only to find that he no longer thinks of her that way. This does the true story here absolutely no justice.
Imagine if childhood were a place, instead of just a time. That's what Hokey Pokey is. At potty training time, toddlers fall into Hokey Pokey and go into the Tattooer. There, they lose their diapers, get a tattoo on their tummies and are shot out into Hokey Pokey, crying out, "I'm a kid!" From there, they find older kids to show them around.
Boys and girls don't have a whole lot of interaction. They live out their lives, doing the same things, but separately. They have play areas and they ride bikes and there's a place to go when they need a cuddle and there's a screen with cartoons going around the clock. The leaders of Hokey Pokey when the reader first arrives are Jack and Jubilee.
When Jack wakes to find that his trusty steed, Scramjet, is missing, he and his friends, The Amigos, know just who took it. It turns out that Jubilee is not quite as guilty as she seems. When she woke up, there was the bike, of its own accord. In an attempt to push Jack's buttons she renames it Hazel and goes off to find her little brother, Albert, so he can share in her good fortune.
It isn't just Jack's bike that is gone. Without understanding what's happening, all of the kids start to notice that Jack's tattoo is fading away. He keeps hearing the sound of a train coming. A train that no one else can here, coming on the tracks that have always been empty. Jack begins to change, and as much as he doesn't want anything to change, he finds himself giving away his things, knowing that nothing will be the same very soon.
This wasn't the story I thought I was listening to, this was something much more. This is the story about the end of childhood and the beginning of a new part of the journey of life. The symbolism here isn't subtle, but it's very effective. Spinelli manages to put the reader in the shoes of the inhabitants of Hokey Pokey, whether they qualify for citizenship now, or are in a position to be able to find the Hokey Pokey of their pasts.