I’ll eat my words now. There are quite a few good contemporary American children’s books. The one Adele Geras suggested a couple of months ago is just out this week; King Dork by Frank Portman.
Frank seems to have been a professional musician, which probably explains all the weird musical comments throughout the book. My favourite quote goes “my view is that there’s something seriously wrong with a subculture that would prefer ‘Stairway to Heaven’ to ‘Wig Wam Bam’.”
The one who says this is King Dork himself, aka Chi-Mo or Tom. He is the most clued up dork I’ve ever come across. I spent the whole book trying to work out if he has Asperger’s or not. The jury is still out on this.
Tom and his friend Sam are dorky outcasts at Hillmont High School and they have a band. Or at least they pretend to. They spend a lot of time trying to avoid getting beaten up in PE, and they think a lot about girls and blow jobs.
There are many references to Catcher in the Rye, which is both a set book at school, and some sort of coded clue to the death of Tom’s father.
King Dork is one long rambling monologue, but one which provides a wonderful insight to the workings of Tom’s mind. He has lots of thoughts and lots of opinions on a great many subjects. He is the sane one here, surrounded by crazy people. He’s lovely.