Children’s Book Review

Share This: Facebooktwitterlinkedin

By Jamie Richardson

March 2016

 You Can't Drink a Meatball Through a StrawYou Can’t Drink a Meatball Through a Straw

from the Here’s Hank series


Young Hank Zipzer’s cousin, Judith Ann, comes for a weekend visit to compete in a kid’s cooking contest. When Hank’s family forces him to go support the confident young chef, he finds himself promoted from unhappy cheerleader to reluctant assistant to last-minute contestant when a chef calls in sick. Stuck with the previous contestant’s ingredients, including a “dangerous” artichoke, he uses the only other food he has on hand—his PB&J, banana, and cookie lunch—to create a winning dish. Soon his Peanut Butter and Jelly Smoothie with Surprise Ingredients lands him in the second round of competition where he learns that his cousin’s cool confidence isn’t as it appears. Will Hank’s Lunch in a Glass win him a TV spotlight for one, or will his fame be short-lived? There’s only one way to find out…pick up your copy today.


4 ½  out of 5 stars

About the Author

While Henry Winkler may be best known for his role as The Fonz on Happy Days, he has since become a successful author.  He grew up in an all-boys school believing he was stupid until being diagnosed with dyslexia at 31. He has used his personal struggles to write two children’s series, Here’s Hank and Hank Zipzer. Both are humorous chronicles of a young man’s struggles through childhood with dyslexia.


As the mother of three, I found myself rolling my eyes at some of Hank’s antics in You Can’t Drink a Meatball Through a Straw because they are so spot-on. The female lead, Judith Ann, appears confident to the point of almost being cocky, and Hank is frustrated by it because of his personal struggles with dyslexia. When he finally gathers his “Oh, yeah? Well, I’ll show you!” attitude, he realizes that Judith Ann is actually as unsure of herself as he is; she just has a tough exterior. In fact, cooking is her big dream, and as far as she can tell, Hank is the only thing standing between her and her destiny.

As soon as Hank finds himself as a chef in the children’s cook-off, the first round has a predictable conclusion. The question just becomes HOW is he going to beat these legitimate young chefs and WHAT is he going to do when it comes to the final round? Is he going to squash Judith Ann and her dream of being on TV, or is our star going to fall on his smoothie-covered face?

The dyslexia theme is not handled in a way that would cause  the reader to pity young Hank, but it does hint at some of his struggles in a way that all kids—not just kids with dyslexia—can relate.  He references having a spelling tutor, getting bad grades, and struggling with reading a long list of rules for the competition. But it also shows his strengths that include humor and creativity.

My 8-year-old son, a reluctant reader who longs to be a professional baker, related to the character, and any book that can make him want to read is a triumph to me.

The pictures scattered throughout the book add to the flow of the narrative as they help young readers visualize what it looks like for a lizard to choke on lettuce, a chef to have flour on her nose, and a smoothie to be decorated with gummy bears. From start to finish, You Can’t Drink a Meatball Through a Straw is a real winner.


Jamie Richardson is a Content Editor for Dyslexia Connection, a freelance writer and editor, and a homeschool mom to three kids.

Copyright © 2016 International Dyslexia Association (IDA). We encourage sharing of Dyslexia Connection articles. If portions are cited, please make appropriate reference. Articles may not be reprinted for the purpose of resale. Permission to republish this article is available from