BooksForKidsBlog

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

In Their Own Words! The Class by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Ellie closed her notebook with a satisfied pat. Complete.

Hermione Granger, Fifth-Grade Muggle
was ready for publication. She'd have to figure out how to publish a book, of course. Mrs. Herrera would know what to do, Ellie thought.

It's early in the school year, Mrs. Herrera is an ace teacher, and the literary Ellie thinks she's got it made in sixth grade. Except... the kids in her class are hopelessly boring.
Maybe school wasn't the place where people could be interesting, Ellie thought. Maybe it squashed the interesting right out of people.

But Ellie is wrong, sooo wrong. All the kids she thought she knew seem to have become strangers this year, behaving out of character, but fascinatingly so. For example, why was Becca, would-be teacher's pet, dumping ants and sugar in Mrs. Herrera's desk drawer? Interesting....

A trip to the library for Becca and Petra becomes an official "art room shenanigan" when they are caught giving each other pixie haircuts. Becca looks sophisticated, a bit exotic, but former social leader Petra looks like a plucked chicken, and the Vice-Principal mutters something sinister to Mrs. Herrera about being already "on thin ice." Carson suddenly invites Cami over to his house to study. Sam Hawkins, a kid who transferred in fifth grade, appears, concealed by his hoodie in the halls, on the playground, and sometimes in the classroom when the others are at lunch. Ellie's notebook disappears, with all her observations about her classmates. Kind but chubby Steffan asks Elizabeth to the dance, and she says yes. And the really arresting development--someone or someones--take three of Mrs. Herrera's "Precious Objects" from her DO NOT TOUCH shelf.

Sixth grade is anything but boring.

It's an interpersonal mystery in an semi-epistolary format, as told by each students' own accounts, in Frances O'Rourk Dowell's latest middle-grade story, The Class (Atheneum Books, 2019). Sixth grade is a time when everything seems to change, as personalities are remade and relationships re-negotiated, and the not-so-boring-after-all kids in Mrs. Herrera's class coalesce to help the quintessential outsider, homeless Sam Hawkins.

Dowell's insightful and engaging novel captures the confusing challenges of early adolescence with a variety of personalities and changing interactions, perfect for middle readers puzzled by the social scene."Read-aloud possibilities are endless for this fun mystery, which is a must for every sixth-grade classroom library," says Booklist.  And Publishers Weekly adds, "A complex, thought-provoking, and entertaining view of middle school."

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