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Top 100 Children’s Novels #92: Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

#92 Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen (2001)
20 points

If I’d discovered this book at eleven I would have read it five hundred times. Juli Baker is the embodiment of the passion with which I longed to live life. Today I can hand it to any girl at my school, only to be greeted at our next meeting with the words, “It’s my new favorite book.” – Danae Leu

The ultimate home-run book – never had it returned because “I didn’t like it.” – Emily Willis

Shall I confess to you now that before I started releasing these results I had to remove two books that I considered too “teen”?  It was very sad.  One was The Hunger Games, a book that I know is loved and read by 5th & 6th graders and the other Totally Joe by James Howe.  It broke my heart to take them off but both were marketed to a primarily teen audience and a person has to draw the line somewhere.  Flipped proved to be on the cusp as well, but I noticed that what set it apart was its willingness to appeal to both kids AND teens.  You’ll find it in children’s sections of the library.  You’ll find it in teen sections as well.  So it with some interest that I welcome Wendelin Van Draanen to this Top 100 list for the very first time.

Publishers Weekly described the book in this way: “Two distinct, thoroughly likable voices emerge in Van Draanen’s (the Sammy Keyes series) enticing story, relayed alternately by eighth graders Bryce and Juli. When Juli moved in across the street from Bryce, just before second grade, he found the feisty, friendly girl overwhelming and off-putting, and tried to distance himself from her but then eighth grade rolls around. Within the framework of their complex, intermittently antagonistic and affectionate rapport, the author shapes insightful portraits of their dissimilar families. Among the most affecting supporting characters are Bryce’s grandfather, who helps Juli spruce up her family’s eyesore of a yard after Bryce makes an unkind remark about the property, and Juli’s father, a deep-feeling artist who tries to explain to his daughter how a painting becomes more than the sum of its parts. Juli finally understands this notion after she discovers the exhilaration of sitting high in a beloved tree in her neighborhood (‘The view from my sycamore was more than rooftops and clouds and wind and colors combined’).”

As for the professional reviews, I have to say they were pretty universally positive.  Though the book never got a Newbery (or a Printz for that matter) somehow in spite of all that it continues to garner fans today.

Said Publishers Weekly, “With a charismatic leading lady kids will flip over, a compelling dynamic between the two narrators and a resonant ending (including a clever double entendre on the title), this novel is a great deal larger than the sum of its parts.”

SLJ chimed in with, “Well-rounded secondary characters keep subplots rolling in this funny, fast-paced, egg-cellent winner.”

Said Booklist, “The author of the popular Sammy Keyes mysteries proves herself just as good at writing a charming romance.”

Kirkus pointed out that “The text stretches credibility in a couple of ways, especially with the premise that a seven-year-old is capable of a long-lasting romantic infatuation. It is, nevertheless, a highly agreeable romantic comedy tempered with the pointed lesson (demonstrated by the straining of Bryce’s parents’ marriage) that the ‘choices you make now will affect you for the rest of your life’.”

Only a couple covers for the book currently exist, though I’ve high hopes for others out there:

That last cover is one from the relatively recent movie, a fact I credit with the book’s appearance on this list.  It got a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes (with 77% liking it, though I’m not sure how that math works out).  Not everyone was charmed, of course.  The Washington Post said of it, “At times, the movie feels like a commercial for Wonder Bread, stretched to feature length.”

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Genevieve says

    An excellent book with a Rashomon-like feel (same incidents, reported very differently by different characters who experienced it). I thought the movie did a very good job of keeping the feel of the story and the characters.

  2. This is the biggest surprise of the day as far as I’m concerned. Very interesting. This has been on my TBR forever and will now be moved up to the top and finally read.

  3. Totally Joe a YA book, what? Kirkus and PW reviewed it as ages 10-14, SLJ as grades 6-8. We’re well within children’s lit as defined by Newbery age requirements there!

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      I love it to pieces, Lisa, but it’s post-adolescent. If this were the Newbery it would be in the clear but I’m going up to 12 and 12 isn’t Joe’s audience. Throw thy rotten tomatoes at me head at will.

  4. Thrilled to see my number ten pick make the cut. This wasn’t on my list the first time around. It nudged off THE OUTSIDERS, which I know is YA, although I read it a bazillion times when I was eleven.

    FLIPPED is middle-grade perfection.

    I’m crazy over the movie. As of now I would like to send out the decree: if any of my other favorite books really need to be made into movies only Rob Reiner shall lay hands on them.

  5. Genevieve says

    Never heard of Totally Joe, so I just put it on hold – looks good.