Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli

(Imagine this first part being sung to the tune of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song)

Now this is the story all about how
this dude named Vic
was a con man renowned
and I'd like to take a minute
just sit right there
to tell you how this guy named Vic
sold the Eiffel Tower

Okay, so my little intro wasn't very well-written, and essentially says the exact same thing that the subtitle of the book does, but the point of the matter is that Tricky Vic is one of those books where truth seems stranger than fiction. It's a Big Fish Story in some regards. It's a "let me tell you a story" story. It's a "you're never gonna believe this" kind of a story. And it is SO GOOD. One of the best nonfiction texts I've ever read, in fact. Greg Pizzoli has written and illustrated the kind of nonfiction that kids are clamoring for. It is the antithesis of the kind of nonfiction you find in textbooks: it's quirky, page-turning, and full of voice. And may I be so bold as to use another anti word in describing this book: it is the antidote to voiceless, soulless nonfiction that students so often get in the form of school textbooks. It is also another book to add to my growing pile of titles to convince teachers that picture books aren't just for little kids.

All this talk about Pizzoli's stellar text, I would be remiss if I didn't also discuss the fascinating illustrations. Ask young readers why Vic doesn't have a face throughout the entire story -- only a fingerprint -- and an insightful discussion is sure to ensue. I am particularly smitten with this illustration midway through the story:
Tricky Vic illustration
Because kids are sure to ask: why does that guy have the head of a fish? And if they don't ask that question, I will because I'm dying to hear their answers. (Ever heard of a Big Fish story, kids? Or the saying, "I reeled him in hook, line, and sinker"?)

But if none of that convinces you to read Tricky Vic, maybe this will: a guy who conned even Al Capone -- one of the most notorious criminals in American history -- and lived to tell the tale, is a guy worth reading about. That's your booktalk right there. Mark my words, Tricky Vic is a 2015 title that will be winning lots of awards. But possibly even better than awards, when talked up by teachers and librarians, it is certain to never live a minute on the bookshelf; it will be passed around from hand to hand, reader to reader. And that is the best award of all.

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli
Published: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Pages: 40
Genre/Format: Nonfiction Picture Book
Audience: Middle Grade/Young Adult
Disclosure: Finished copy provided by publisher 

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