Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, Harcourt Children's Books in Sep. 2007
Author: Gennifer Choldenko

A few weeks ago, I reviewed Ms. Choldenko's book, No Passengers Beyond This Point (my review). I had requested the book, but the author included another book along with that, If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period. She explained that this latter book might fit well with my goal of promoting diversity, multiculturalism and acceptance.

I planned to hold off and wait, but this is a uniquely compelling book. I have to admit, it took me a little longer to get into the story, which is told in alternating chapters by two 7th graders.

Kirsten is white and struggles with her weight, her parents who fight almost constantly, her little sister who needs her support but drives her crazy, and the other girls at the exclusive Mountain School who vacillate between friendship and cruelty.

Walk is black and is starting at Mountain School for the first time due to a scholarship, after attending a rough public school where he had good friends but few opportunities. His mother, Sylvia, is a single mother trying to cope and help Walk avoid the dangers she sees everywhere.

Kirsten and Walk don't have much in common besides being in 7th grade at Mountain School and being two of the best students in the class. Even that is starting to slip away for Kirsten when they are thrown together and Kirsten discovers a secret that shakes them both to the core.

This book has an intensely personal feel which will draw kids in. Both main characters are struggling to find a place and identity with school, friends and parents who alternate between helping them and hurting them. Adolescent hormones swirl around as an undercurrent, but the strongest currents are those of finding one's place. I appreciated greatly that the parents were fully developed and complex.

As I said, I had a little trouble getting into the book at first, skipping back and forth between these two loosely connected people, but both Kirsten and Walk became more and more compelling as the threads of the story drew them closer. I think middle grade students would be drawn in even more quickly due to the way that the characters of the two are drawn, making them easy to relate to for children going through this volatile age.

I would strongly recommend this for children in the target age range, 9-12. I would especially recommend it as a book to have available in classrooms and libraries where multiracial issues are likely to resonate.

Five Stars!

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  1. How cool of Ms. Choldenko to send you an extra book. Sounds like an important read!


  2. This sounds like a great book, Ben. Thanks for sharing. :-)

  3. I'm glad to see this review. Someone loaned me this book and I tried to start but it didn't compel me. I'll give it another try :)

  4. hi mr ben! im a middle grader. since miss shannon and some other blogger got that middle grade mondays going i got real lazy. now i count on them to know what books i could wanna read. for this book it sounds pretty good. im glady you said its some hard to get into cause mostly i would of put it down if you didnt say that. for sure im gonna put it on my wanna read list.
    ...smiles from lenny