Middle-grade novel about obstacles, communication, family, and growth.
Nicky Nutz, who turns eleven this very morning, is not a happy camper. And not just because his birthday is a sad reminder of the freaky car accident that took his mom’s life last year. It’s because he still has no idea why his dad, Big Nutz, moved them from Chicago to this auto junk yard in Houston, Texas. Does Big Nutz blame him for the car accident? Nicky has other burning questions, too. Like, why won’t The Wall, his nemesis at ALE—Abe Lincoln Elementary—stop bullying him? And why did his art teacher, Ms. Piven, have to go and make fifth grade SS—Seriously Stinky—with her mandatory art contest? And why does Nicky slide into FTSM—Frosty the Snowman Mode—when he has lots of eyeballs on him? Nicky just needs to hold on, because the answers to all of his questions are coming. But will he like them? President Abraham Lincoln, one of Nicky’s heroes, said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” To that, Nicky’s best friend JB—Jimmy Black—would quip, “Wanna place a ten-dollar bet?”
Ages: 8–12 ~ Grade Level: 4–6
Subjects: Bullying, Grief, Language, Social Studies, Art, Friendship, Personal Growth, Family
Cover Art: Rena Hoberman
Print copy: available from author
Note: Being revised as a graphic novel.
“Authentic and engaging. I got wrapped up in the Nicky’s struggles and living through each up and down with him.”
“Full of humor & compassion.”
Q. Sheri, how did you get the idea for this juvenile fiction?
A. As a kid, I traveled the globe as a military brat. So I only infrequently got to visit my grandparents, who lived 15 minutes apart in Houston, Texas. Between them sat an auto junk yard, which fascinated me, in part because the owners lived in an old trailer amid all that decaying metal. As a kid I was a shy, super-skinny, super-freckled redhead, which might explain why I was picked on quite a bit when my military dad moved us to Hawaii for five years. I sought solace in books and TV. I watched so many Star Trek episodes, in fact, that I can honestly say that Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew helped to form my personal values. I was a HUGE Spock fan, in part because he didn’t let life bug him. My real-life hero was Abe Lincoln. Talk about a person who never gave up, despite what life threw at him! From that mashup of childhood memories, I created this story about a bullied shy kid who learns, as Abe Lincoln says, that life is what we make of it. The secret to life: We all get to decide our own happiness!
Q. You also included art in the novel, by making Nicky have to participate in an art contest. Why?
A. One of my favorite forms of artistic expression is found object art. That artists can make art from materials that other people throw away is very cool. I own one found object art piece that includes lots of tossed items, including an old guitar fret, a black rotary phone, Happy Meal toys, even an ancient cell phone. It’s huge! HA! Looking at the statue is like taking a trip back in time. Art is one way for kids to learn that they have a creative bent. Not everyone is suited for an office 9 to 5 job. If this novel inspires kids to get crafty, I would be very happy to hear that.