Seventh graders Noah and Dash are on the fast track to careers in comedy. They spend every extra moment studying comedy, trying out new comedy routines, listening to Dash's dad's old comedy records, and looking up old and new comedy clips on the internet. Noah looks forward to the time he gets to spend with Dash and his dad on the weekends.
But during the week, Noah has a lot on his plate. First of all, there's his nemesis, Noa. While they have the same name, Noa is a girl, and not just any kind of girl, but the kind who is smart and who is universally good at everything and loved by adults. And she is his bar mitzvah partner.
Things aren't all bad for Noah. He has two moms who love him and an older sister who, despite being a devout vegan, is okay at being an older sister when he needs one. And she makes good cookies. Usually. Plus, when they asked for ideas for a project at Hebrew school, he suggested they study Jewish comedians, and his idea was picked. Now, he and Dash can do their presentation on The Three Stooges, even if they do have to include Noa on their team.
And then something happens. The worst happens. Dash's dad dies.
As Noah tries to find out what happened and to be there for his best friend, he finds that he just keeps saying the wrong thing and doing the wrong thing and making both Dash and himself feel worse. And then when he finds out that Dash's dad killed himself, he is shocked and has no idea how to be a good friend to Dash. A series of mistakes and bad choices create a rift between the two boys that Noah may not be able to fix, even with a classic slip on a banana peel.
Erica S. Perl's All Three Stooges is a challenging but warm look at friendship and grief. Noah is far from a smart character, but his bad choices show his humanity in a very difficult situation. As Noah tries to repair his relationship with Dash, and just to understand a little bit of what Dash is going through, we as readers follow along step by step. It's a journey of grief, healing, and compassion, and Perl has expertly lead us through from the beginning to the end.
I highly recommended this one for young readers, for those who have found themselves in one of life's painful situations as well as for those who haven't yet tasted grief. It's funny and well written, smart and interesting. An excellent middle grade book (for all ages).
Galleys for All Three Stooges were provided by Knopf Books for Young Readers through NetGalley.com, with many thanks.