Monday, February 25, 2013

Somebody Loves Me? The Candy Smash by Jacqueline Davies

Evan looked over at Jessie's desk. Lined up in neat rows were four perfect paper spirals, four curly paper rosettes, and twenty identical paper hearts... so precise they looked like they came from a factory.

It was a times like this that Evan wished his little sister wasn't in the same fourth-grade class with him.

Jessie was good at math and writing and science and just about everything that counted in school. She had even skipped the third grade. Why did she have to be so smart?

But despite her precocious abilities, Jessie is only eight years old, so when the love bug bites in Mrs. Overton's fourth grade class, Jessie just doesn't get it. To her meticulous, scientific mind, it is a mystery to be solved empirically. And since the February issue of her newspaper, The 4-0 Forum, is due soon, she decides that a survey of what her classmates think about love, complete with statistical pie graphs, is the way to explain the unexplainable.

Like, why is someone leaving everyone in the class personalized boxes of candy hearts? Why is her best friend Megan Moriarty acting strange, bawling in the girls' bathroom and refusing to tell Jessie all about it? When she finds his poem "Pony Girl" while emptying his trash and publishes it on the front page of the Forum, why is her brother Evan angry instead of pleased? And why is Mrs. Overton confiscating all her copies of the Forum and talking about violations of "privacy?"

Why is everyone in the class mad at her when her statistics are perfectly valid?

In this fourth book in her best-selling The Lemonade War series, Davies continues to document with humor and insight the differences between the empirical Jessie and her intuitive brother Evan. Evan finds himself inexplicably under the spell of the pony-tailed Megan Moriarity, getting that special zing from Mrs. Overton's poetry lessons, and writing his own poetry using his newly learned skills. Jessie, as yet un-stricken with Cupid's early arrows, doesn't understand why everyone's crushes are embarrassing secrets, but she's sure that documenting everyone's experiences will uncover the truth, even when she discovers to her surprise that she is the object of a mysterious someone's crush, too. Jessie, of course, is clueless, but readers will spot her admirer right away, in this excellent sequel in Davies' outstanding series for elementary readers.

Growing up, especially discovering the strange ways of the human heart, is hard to do, but in the hands of a terrific writer like Davies, who mixes sadness, humor, and love perfectly, The Candy Smash (The Lemonade War Series) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013) is a perfect February read-aloud novel, combining a great middle grade fiction outing with built-in poetry lessons for a blend of Valentine's Day-Poetry Month topicality. Davies appends the full text of Jessie's censored newspaper along with her own glossary of poetry terms and the full texts of poems--from Emily Dickinson through E.E. Cummings and on to Sylvia Plath--referenced in the plot. This series, like Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby series, takes the reader along with the growing experiences of memorable characters in realistic family, friendship, and school experiences. Not to be missed!

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home