Books

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Jake the Fake Keeps It Real’ by Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach, Art by Keith Knight

c.2017, Crown Books for Young Readers
$13.99 ($18.99 Canada)
138 pages

You got this.

You know what’s up. You’ve been schooled and you know how things work, how it is, how it goes down. You can do it, no problem. You got this — except when, as in the new book “Jake the Fake Keeps It Real” by Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach, art by Keith Knight, you don’t.

Jake Liston plays the piano.

But he really doesn’t. He made people think he does, though, just so he could get into the Music and Art Academy, a magnet school for creative kids. His older sister, Lisa, goes there so Jake’s parents thought he should, too, but Lisa is cool, smart, beautiful, kind, and talented … and Jake is not.

Actually, Jake is cool. A guy has to be cool to fake a piano recital with a simple song he knows by heart, and fool a board of admissions. But talented? He’s only talented at faking everything, and nobody gets good grades doing that. You can make friends by making things up, but you don’t get A’s.

Or maybe you do: Jake’s best friend, Evan (who is talented at basketball), pointed out that grades aren’t all that important at MAA; even Mr. Allen, Jake’s homeroom teacher, basically ignores them. Creativity, however? That’s very important, which means that Jake could be himself (weird, in other words) and ace all of sixth grade.

And so the next day, Jake goes to school and tells everyone to call him “The Dentist,” for no reason at all. He makes eggs out of garbage and glue, and starts a fake band with no instruments. He fakes assignments, and he has a whole list of possible weirdness he could fake if he needs to fake more.

Unfortunately, there was one thing that was not on the list: the end-of-year talent show. The show that every single student at MAA has to participate in. The show that Jake is not prepared to do: five minutes on a stage, performing for a huge audience.

And that is something Jake could never fake …

Here’s another authentic thing: the humor that’s inside “Jake the Fake Keeps It Real.” The story is hilarious, the asides are side-splitting, and if that’s not enough, there’s the artwork by Keith Knight.

Any way you cut it, there isn’t a lot of seriousness here. Authors Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach really know how to tickle a kid’s funny bone with a story of a school full of chaos that masquerades as creativity, and a boy who takes full advantage of it. Even Jake’s teachers and friends will make your child LOL because of their totally natural but totally weird personalities. Of course, there’s a subtle lesson here, too: Jake’s experiences teach your kids that being themselves is always correct, and that everybody has something they do best.

For middle school class clowns, the school slacker, or for artsy kids who feel misunderstood, this book is a winner. For 10- to 14-year-olds who love to laugh, it’s “Jake the Fake Keeps It Real.” Yeah, you got this.

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