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BOOK REVIEWS, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions, Teacher & Parent Recommendations

THE GECKO & STICKY by Wendelin van Draanen

The Gecko & Sticky are two of the most hilarious characters I have ever come across in literature.  Sticky is the actual gecko and the “Gecko” is the superhero moniker of Sticky’s 13-year-old friend, Dave Sanchez.  Confused? It makes sense when you read the book, whose tongue-in-cheek narrative style is full of asides and inside jokes for the reader.

The Gecko and Sticky actually make their first appearance within the pages of van Draanen’s four book Shredderman series–which I also highly recommend. (There is very little of van Draanen’s work I cannot recommend–only those I have not yet read.) It should be noted that in Shredderman they appear as a fictional superhero and sidekick character whereas in The Gecko & Sticky series the narrator specifically tells us she is relating an ABSOLUTELY TRUE story.

Dave is a typical 13-year-old boy.  He is courageous, honest, well-intentioned, and has an entrepeneurial spirit.  In the first installment he creates his own courier company powered by his bicycle.  This serves to establish him as responsible, reliable, and an experienced bicyclist, allowing him to believeably travel from one location to another.  He meets Sticky, a gecko lizard, and discovers in the first book of the series that Sticky can speak.  He later finds out that Sticky has a habit of stealing small items and is also guilty of both embellishing facts to his advantage and omitting those that are not.

Despite Sticky’s less admirable qualities, his adventures with Dave opposite the exquisitely dastardly villian Damien Black show him to be good at heart.  Likewise the friendship between Dave and Sticky continues to grow in each book.  Dave learns unconditional acceptance of Sticky’s more frustrating tendencies.  Sticky is increasingly genuine in his dealings with Dave as both gradually realize how much their friendship has come to mean to each of them.

The development of the friendship between the two characters is best experienced when reading the books in order but each individual story stands well on its own as well.  The three bumbling Bandito Brothers (who are not really brothers and began as a mariachi band, not as bandits per se) who perform as Damien Black’s inept henchmen, along with Rosie, their buck-toothed burro, are also an endless source of humor.

These books are a wonderful combination of humor and adventure.  I LOVE reading these stories aloud to an audience as well as independently.  I read the first installment aloud to my 4th graders this year and they really enjoyed it.

I highly recommend this series; these stories are the definition of LAUGH-OUT-LOUD.


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