Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hailey Twitch is Not a Snitch by Lauren Barnholt

Capturing the character and voice of a second grader can be tricky. Oftentimes the adult voice sifts through and for the most part Lauren Barnholt's Hailey sounds like a second grader. She reminds me a little of the bossy, troublemaker, Junie B. Jones, and the imaginative don't-mean-to-get-in-trouble-but-do Clementine. Hailey Twitch is learning how to make friends and work with different students at school. When the teacher assigns her to partner with Addie Jokobeck for a school project, Hailey is not happy. Addie loves rules and for Hailey that spells, "No fun."

She stomps in the door after school, tells mom she's cranky, and gives herself a time-out in her bedroom so she can prevent a tantrum. In her room she hugs her doll and wishes she was a princess. Ah yes, a princess is rich and can get what she wants - like a different partner at school. Hailey's wish releases a sprite who's been trapped in the doll for 200 years. The sprite, Maybelle is being punished for being a bossy rule monger and thinks if she learns to have fun she won't be so bossy. Hailey thinks Maybelle can use magic to get her a new partner, but Maybelle only gets Hailey in trouble with pranks she thinks are fun. When Hailey becomes friends with Addie she decides to teach her to have fun. Maybelle decides to join in but things go awry. When Maybelle takes something from the teacher's desk, Hailey needs to decide what actions to take to correct the problem.

Hailey act sand sounds like a kid learning to socialize and make friends. She gets jealous when her current friends play with different students and she isn't sure about making new friends. She can be bossy and mean but also kind and caring. Natalie's the mean girl but she doesn't start out that way. She progresses in the story as someone who never learns to make friends. I don't really like how the kids gang-up on her at the end. I would have liked Addie or the other boys stepping-in to show Hailey and Natalie how to put their differences aside and reach out to each other. A few times Hailey sounds adultish such as when she tells the sprite who has put on a glittery gown that she looks like a "whole new woman."

Repetition is used that will help emerging readers acquiring language. Hailey repeats words for emphasis all the time. I thought it was overdone but I don't think young readers will find it annoying. Hailey also defines concepts such as what it means to be bossy or have a tantrum. There are some nice similes and metaphors such as Hailey's shock at seeing a sprite, "I cannot find my voice. It feels like I am trying to talk with a big mouthful of peanut butter sandwich before I've had any milk."

The plot has the sprite's issues mirrored by Addie. I wasn't sure how it moved the plot forward until the end when Hailey makes a decision to help the sprite. This can make for interesting discussions on whether or not Hailey made the right choice. I think the sprite needed more explanation. What is the Department of Magic and how does it fit into Hailey's world? Just when I thought I was going to get some answers, the book ends abruptly. This is a promising book but my biggest complaint is the poor ending. It is supposed to be a cliffhanger but it leaves too much hanging with the teacher having to hand out her punishment and Mr. Tuttle's cryptic message. More needed to be explained. A good addition to your library for grade 2-3 readers.

Reading Level 3.1
3 out of 5 Smileys

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