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Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 05/01/2014 *Starred Review* Albie almost understands why he is starting fifth grade at a new school. It’s got something to do with the things he can’t quite do, like subtract numbers inside his head or figure out the words in books. Fortunately, Albie also gets a kindhearted new sitter named Calista, who can turn Albie’s sadness into happiness simply through the magic of donuts. But even Calista can’t stop the mean kid at school from calling Albie names, or make Albie’s parents see how hard he tries in school. As every kid knows, some problems take more than donuts to solve. Graff (A Tangle of Knots, 2013) creates a heartfelt portrait of a child searching for nothing more than a safe place to thrive. The story is parsed into short chapters that can stand alone as mini-stories, perfect for young readers who aren’t ready to tackle full pages of text. This format is also well suited to presenting the incremental steps of Albie’s evolution from bewildered victim to hero of his own story. Beautifully written, Albie’s story is accessible and dignified, with a gentle message that will touch any reader’s heart. Middle-grade readers will love the references to Dav Pilkey’s inexhaustibly popular Captain Underpants series, which has introduced so many children to the fun side of reading. A perfect book to share with struggling readers. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 05/01/2014 Gr 4–6—Albie, an only child living in New York City, has learning difficulties. No matter how hard he tries to give the correct change to the takeout delivery guy, or get all his spelling words correct, he inevitably fails to get it right. When readers meet the fifth-grader, he's just left his fancy private school and is about to be the new kid at public school. His dad is mostly absent and forgetful, except when demanding that Albie try harder. His mom tells him that Dav Pilkey's "Captain Underpants" (Scholastic) is for babies, and gives him Esther Forbes's Johnny Tremain instead. His exacting Korean grandfather predicts that he will end up in a ditch. At school, despite some sympathetic teachers, he is bullied and teased. His only friend is Betsy, reserved and bullied herself. Things begin to change when Albie gets a new babysitter. Calista is an artist and definitely unusual: she makes a cover for Albie's Captain Underpants that says "Johnny Tremain." She takes him for donuts and to art exhibits and, most importantly, she likes him for who he is. Albie's just-believable naiveté leads him into social difficulties as he is given an opportunity to be one of the "cool" kids, even though this entails abandoning his friendship with Betsy. Despite the fact that Graff is scrupulously honest in refusing to provide a conveniently happy ending, Albie comes through significant emotional hardship to a genuine sense of self-worth. Albie himself would find this book inviting at first glance: short chapters, an accessible sans serif font, and plenty of white space, and even his mom might think it acceptable for a fifth grader.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 09/01/2014 When Albie isn’t able to keep his grades up at his prestigious prep school despite his best efforts, he has to leave his fifth-grade classroom and his best pal Erlan to attend local public school. Despite Albie’s parents’ insistence that he just isn’t working hard enough and his Korean grandfather’s belittling, however, his new nanny, Calista, believes in his ability to do well,. The new school turns out to be a good fit, with an understanding teacher for math club, chances to read Captain Underpants, and new friend in Betsy, who gets teased for her stutter. With his upcoming appearance in a reality show featuring Erlan’s family, Albie gets a brief pass into the cool kids’ clique at school and drops Betsy, but he’s quickly abandoned by his fair-weather friends after his bit in the show gets cut. Calista gets sacked by his parents for allowing Albie to stay home to avoid dealing with the fallout, and he’s left to mend relationships with his parents, Erlan, and Betsy on his own. Graff (The Thing about Georgie, BCCB 4/07) again draws on her ability to create rich lifeworlds for her characters to present a boy who is gifted in many ways-just not the ways that people around him value-and who is just beginning to realize that the adults in his life are fallible. Though Albie’s difficulties in school aren’t completely explained (his difficulty with social cues and love of detailed rules possibly place him on the spectrum), it’s a realistic portrait for kids with learning difficulties. As with Sloan’s Counting by 7s (BCCB 9/13), this is a sharp portrait of an outsider’s inner perspective, and Albie’s coming to terms with himself will be cheered by many. TA - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.