Published by Crown Books for Young Readers on March 28th 2017
For fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate comes a new side-splitting series from comedian and film star Craig Robinson, #1 New York Times bestselling author Adam Mansbach, and NAACP History Maker recipient and cartoonist Keith Knight. Jake can barely play an instrument, not even a kazoo. And his art? It's better suited for Pictionary than Picasso. Which is a real problem because Jake just faked his way into the Music and Art Academy for the gifted and talented (and Jake is pretty sure he is neither). More jokester than composer, Jake will have to think of something quick before the last laugh is on him. Featuring more than 160 illustrations, Jake the Fake is sure to bring the laughs with his hilarious high jinks!
We don’t cover a whole lot of middle-grade on the blog, so when we do, it’s for a good reason. In this case, there are several. One is that my son, who is 9, absolutely loved this book. Another is that I think Craig Robinson is one of the funniest comedians working in showbiz. And the last is that I went to undergraduate school with Robinson’s co-writer, Adam Mansbach. Award-winning cartoonist Keith Knight’s art was a bonus treat.
Adam probably doesn’t remember me, but I remember him, because we took English & Comparative Lit seminar classes together like “Shakespeare and the Jews.” He had this outspoken love of rap and hip-hop, which he managed to bring up in class, and it always worked somehow. It left an impression. So yeah, he’s a PhD and a best-selling author. I review movies and children’s books. No self-deprecating comment necessary.
I’d already read Mansbach’s groundbreaking children’s books for adults and been a fan of Robinson’s and Knight’s. So figured JAKE THE FAKE had to be a funny, well-written collaboration. It didn’t disappoint. My youngest son and I read it together. We laughed aloud and had several conversations about everything from fitting in and the subjectivity of art to how silly writing reviews can be and how brave artists are to begin with to make themselves vulnerable to that sort of judgment and criticism just to share their talent and joy with an audience, no matter how big or small.
On a personal note, this book came at a perfect time. My son was recently accepted into a special county-wide program for fourth and fifth graders, and he’s been struggling with our decision to send him. It’s clear he’s worried he won’t be as smart or talented as the other kids who made it into the program. After all, he’s reading JAKE THE FAKE, he joked, and the other kids are probably reading “big, fat grown up books.” The book helped boost his confidence, especially when we talked about how Jake *is* talented, and what he learns about himself at the Music & Art Academy. Because of Jake, my son is ready to be weird in his own wonderful way.
So thanks Craig, Adam, and Keith. Your book is funny and sweet. More important, it helped my kid find the courage to rise to the challenge of his new school assignment.