Today’s book comes to us from the 2021-2022 Texas Bluebonnet Award master list.  Named after the state flower, the Bluebonnet Award is chosen by students across Texas from a master list of 20 books cultivated by suggestions from teachers, librarians and other book lovers.

The Best of Iggy by Annie Barrows was short-listed for the award though it didn’t win. But it’s a clear winner in terms of entertainment value. It pulls you into the life of Iggy Frangi almost instantly. It’s hard to discern whether Iggy is the story’s protagonist or antagonist, as he’s truly a good kid who makes a series of increasingly bad decisions that ultimately lead to him being suspended from school. Yeah, it gets real for Iggy and his antics.

Honestly, things start out innocently enough. Some would argue that Iggy didn’t even do anything wrong. But when he’s caught in the act of chasing another kid off the roof of the Frangi house, that’s not how any of the adults see things.

Like a lot of kids, Iggy was forced to be friends with someone simply because their moms were friends. This friendship is exactly why Iggy found himself in the company of Jeremy Greerson one fateful morning. His mom had invited Jeremy’s mom for brunch and though he wasn’t looking forward to the company, he was thrilled about eating all of his favorite foods.

It’s not that Jeremy is a bad kid; he doesn’t really do much worthy of annoying Iggy at first. It’s more that Jeremy makes Iggy feel badly about himself, something we’ve all experienced at some point. He’s happy to finally be called to the table where he spots a giant pancake that his mom only makes on special occasions.

When Jeremy’s mom compliments the pancake, Iggy’s mom responds that it’s called a Dutch Baby, which makes Iggy, mouth full of said baby, laugh and spit food all over the table. He’s dismissed by both of his parents for the outburst and heads outside to be alone, bouncing on his trampoline. Jeremy soon joins him and again, there’s just something about that kid that makes Iggy feel badly. Instead of feeling content to simply bounce in Jeremy’s presence, Iggy decides to show off by pushing his trampoline to the side of the family’s shed so he can ride his skateboard off the roof. 

Iggy spends a very short chapter explaining to the reader that the shed was only about 11 feet high with a sloped roof. It wasn’t pointy and not that dangerous. However, in the next chapter, after climbing on top of the roof, he has a different perspective. Now, the roof is much higher than it seemed and Iggy is scared! But… he does it anyway, mostly to make himself seem cool and Jeremy uncool. Iggy knows his intention is both wrong and mean but he does it anyway.

What he doesn’t expect is for Jeremy to want to skateboard off the roof, too. Iggy encourages him to jump from the ladder instead, which some people might say was a very bad thing to do. But Iggy was trying to keep him safe, since as we all know, it’s safer to jump from a ladder than a roof. Unfortunately, Jeremy loves ladder jumping and is even more enthusiastic to advance to roof diving! 

In his attempt to stop him, Iggy is kicked in the shin, then called a name that ‘you’re never supposed to say’. Jeremy begins taunting him with the unkind nickname Iggy the Piggy, a callback to the earlier pancake spitting incident. Well that does it; Iggy tears up the ladder after him, shouting, ‘You’re dead, Jeremy Greerson!’ And it was at that moment that his parents, and Mrs. Greerson, came outside to see what the boys were doing.

Well, of course it was at that moment. Because at that moment, things couldn’t have possibly looked any worse for Iggy. From their vantage point, Jeremy was on the roof, Iggy was screaming about how he was going to kill him while scurrying up the ladder and then suddenly, Jeremy jumped from the roof to the trampoline. It was pretty clear to see who was the victim and who was the perpetrator. Iggy had to admit, it looked pretty bad. But what they thought happened, hadn’t actually happened!

Jeremy looked pretty shaken up by the ordeal, though he’d landed safely on the trampoline and no harm had been done. Iggy was ordered to his room for the rest of the day, his father furious and his mother disappointed. Iggy lay with his head buried in the shaggy rug on his bedroom floor. To the casual observer it would appear that he was crying, remorseful. Instead, he was laughing, thinking of Jeremy’s face as he came to regret every rude thing he’d said to Iggy up to that moment. His only regret was that he’d gotten in trouble.

Iggy goes on to make a terrible mess in the bathroom one afternoon, while his mom is away and his older sister is babysitting him. It starts innocently enough, as Iggy experiments with what he can flush down the toilet. He then moves on to decorating his entire head with his dad’s shaving cream to make himself look like an old man. When his sister finally remembers to check on him, he pretends to be hurt behind the locked door. He uses his mother’s lipstick to draw wounds on his skin and then flings open the door to reveal his grotesque creation… AGGGHHHH!

So his second wrongdoing was far less serious than the first. He ruined some eyeliner and lipstick, which he had to pay to replace from his own money! But ultimately, no one was harmed. Too bad the same can’t be said for the third terrible thing he does. Sadly, someone he cares about is hurt and it’s all his fault,

Iggy has a teacher named Ms. Schulberger, who he has nicknamed Puttzi, on account of her car being so tiny that it’s like a putt-putt car. Puttzi is young, pretty and nice. She never gets mad and she never hurts Iggy’s feelings. Which makes what happens to her so much worse!

One day, the students arrive at Puttzi’s classroom to find new desks. The seat connects with a long metal bar, allowing a student to lean way back and lift the desk portion off the ground. Iggy is the first to realize this and shares this new-found knowledge with his friends. The five of them are already known for being troublemakers but what they are about to do is the worst thing any of them have ever done.

The four boys plan to race their desks to the front of the room when Ms. Schulberger isn’t looking. As soon as she turns her back for the third time that afternoon, each boy will take off, racing to see who can reach her first. Iggy is having so much fun and enjoying the fact that he’s about to win so much that he only has a half-second to register the terrified look on Puttzi’s face before crashing right into her.

Iggy was immediately sorry. He’d never apologized as many times as he did in the moments that followed the crash. The principal came to take over the class. Three burly firefighters took Puttzi out on a stretcher, one of them admonishing him for what he’d done. The next day, neither Iggy nor Ms. Schulberger came to school; she was resting and he was suspended. He came back the following day, though he wished he didn’t have to. Everyone, aside from his friends, was giving him hateful looks. Puttzi still hadn’t come back. He didn’t think it could get any worse.

But it did the next day, when Ms. Schulberger finally came back, accompanied by a large man who could only be Mr. Schulberger. He whispered into Iggy’s ear not to ever do what he’d done again before leaving.  Later that day, Iggy and Puttzi have a chance to talk. She asks why he did it, though all he can say is that he thought it would be fun. He had no intention of hitting her, though looking back, that was the only outcome that could come from racing a desk towards his favorite teacher. They make up and Iggy vows not to do anything bad again for the rest of the year, though he acknowledges that this is probably impossible. The book ends with Ms. Schulberger healing quickly and Iggy giving her a drawing of a flower and many written apologies.

The Best of Iggy is a short (125 pages) chapter book with many black and white illustrations throughout. Kids who are fond of Nate the Great, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants would likely enjoy Iggy’s (mostly) harmless exploits, especially third and fourth grade boys. It’s a fun book about how one little, not so great idea can send you on an unintended, possibly reckless, path. Be safe out there, kids!

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