By: Dan Gutman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: May 27, 2010
Cape Bluff, Kansas was a nice place to live. That was until a tornado came crashing through town and destroyed houses, cars, and the elementary school library. Townspeople were devastated, what could they do? Some wanted to give up and move away, others, like the mayor, had no solution. But then Principal Anderson suggested the town put on a talent show. Some residents thought it was a silly idea, but others loved the notion and soon, parents and kids alike were planning the upcoming event.
The Talent Show chronicles the preparation the kids go through to get ready for the big event. We meet a bunch of interesting students, including Julia Maguire, an amazing ballet dancer, Elke Villa, a sixth grader with a beautiful voice, Richard Ackoon, aka Racoon, a budding rap star, and Don Potash, a comedian wannabe. They all try out for the show, and all but Don make the cut. Poor Don gets stage fright and runs off the stage, embarrassed, his dreams of stardom dashed.
Finally the day of the talent show arrives and just as the show is about to start, the lights go out. Could it be another tornado? Will the show go on?
The author, Dan Gutman, writes books that take place in and around the schoolyard and his popularity proves he understands what elementary school kids like to read. His engaging, and at times silly, writing style will appeal to young readers: ”Paul and The BluffTones played “Wipeout” at rehearsal so many times they were wiped out. They could have played the song in their sleep. In fact, it almost seemed as though they were playing it in their sleep.” (pg. 125)
The Talent Show gets off to a quick start with the tornado striking town on the first page. It then hits a bit of a speed bump as the author gives a “brief history” (2 pages) of the town of Cape Bluff and starts out by saying, “If you don’t like to read brief histories, that’s okay. Skip the next couple of pages” (pg. 16) and I suspect many youngsters will do just that. Next, the action picks up as the townspeople decide to have a talent show and then slows again as we’re given a full chapter of background on each of the main talent show contenders. Fortunately, once these chapters are over, the action continues in earnest and doesn’t stop until the last page. Indeed, reading the section on the talent show was like sitting in the audience and enjoying the entertainment. And it was quite nice to see Don Potash, the stage frightened comedian, make a phenomenal comeback. Go Don!
Quill says: After reading The Talent Show, youngsters may just decide to put on their own talent shows.