HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Veronica Ganz
Author: Marilyn Sachs
Illustrator: Louis Glanzman
Publisher: Back in Print, republished in 2007
ISBN-13: 9780385014366 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0385014368 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0595483945 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0595483941 (Paperback)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 8-12
Rating: ** 2 stars (POOR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Sachs, Marilyn. Veronica Ganz (published in 1968 by Doubleday and Company Inc., 245 Park Ave., New York City, NY 10167; republished in 1987 by Apple Paperbacks, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., 730 Broadway, New York City, NY 10003). Thirteen year old Veronica Ganz is a student at Public School 63 and lives with her mother and stepfather, Peggy and Ralph Petronski who run a cleaner, younger sister Mary Rose who is eleven, and little half-brother Stanley who is five, in an apartment in a run-down section of a city like New York; a couple of sources suggest that the story is set “in the early 1940s.” Her father, Frank Ganz, and mother divorced when Veronica was five, and he moved to Las Vegas and remarried. Veronica has been described as “One of the most famous bullies in children’s books.” Author Marilyn Sachs has written books about other girls in P.S. 63, such as Amy Moves In, Laura’s Luck, and Amy and Laura, in which Veronica appears as a bully, so apparently it was decided to give her a book of her own. She has systematically beaten up everybody in all of her classes and has never been challenged successfully by anyone.
However, a new kid, shrimpy little Peter Wedemeyer, moves into the neighborhood and begins to tease her unmercifully, yet always seems to stay one step ahead of her mighty fists. Getting even with Peter will take some real brainpower. How can Veronica find a way to teach him who is boss? To be honest, I did not like this book. A lot of reviewers seemed to find the plot humorous, including the one from Kirkus who ended their review saying, “With laughter from deep down.” I realize that various people have different senses of humor. However, having been bullied myself when in junior high, I just don’t find bullying, being mean, and hitting people funny, even if the story is supposed to end up “all right.” One person said, “I admired Veronica and the way she never let anyone push her around.” Are slapping girls in the face and poking boys in the nose acceptable means of accomplishing this goal? And from there, things start getting muddled. At first, we feel sorry for Peter, but then he turns out to be just about as nasty as Veronica, so all of a sudden we almost feel sorry for her.
The conclusion is supposed to demonstrate Veronica’s redemption, but the ending seems rather abrupt and even somewhat forced, and we still have to wonder if she has really changed or just altered her attitude towards Peter because she is beginning to like him. Apparently there is a sequel, Veronica and Peter. Overall, this is a very worldly book. When Peter chants, “Veronica Ganz Doesn’t wear pants,” the author tells us that “she flipped her skirt up to her waist, revealing the pair of pink panties that lay underneath.” There are a few common euphemisms like “gee,” and the phrase “swear to God” is used several times by kids. And Veronica’s home is rather dysfunctional. “Mama screamed a lot, and hit, too, when she was real mad.” One who considered the book “cool” did admit, “I think it went a little overboard in that it sort of put men down by making them seem like wimps.” Someone else who liked it also noted, “This book really has a lotta violence for a children’s story.” Yes. The actions and attitudes displayed might seem relevant to some people, but in my opinion it bears no relevance whatever to godly families who are trying to bring up children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. A good book about childhood bullying might be useful, but this one isn’t it.