Monday, April 20, 2015

Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake (Eleanor #3) by Julie Sternberg, Matthew Cordell (Illustrations)

This reads like an intermediate chapter book, although it is designed like a novel-in-verse. I admire authors that take risks and try different techniques, but this doesn't quite work. Writing an intermediate chapter book is extremely difficult. The vocabulary is for readers that are working toward fluency and the vocabulary and sentence structure tends to be simpler than middle grade novels. I can see how this format might lend itself to the target audience, but most of the text reads more like short sentences instead of poems. It took me about 45 minutes to hop through this plot. Even though this is book #3 in the series, it is fine as a stand alone.

Fourth graders Eleanor and her best friend, Pearl, spend every Monday and Wednesday together since Pearl's mom works after-school. When a new girl, Ainsley, transfers to their school, Pearl ends up being her after-school tutor on Mondays and Wednesdays. Not only does Eleanor feel threatened and sad over the loss of time with her friend, but her puppy is so disobedient that he has to spend two weeks at dog-training camp. To add to her stress, Pearl volunteers Eleanor to be in the school play. Eleanor gets a main role that requires singing a solo. She's terrified, but worse than having a bunch of cheesy lines, she has to hug a boy. When Ainsley starts to tell Eleanor some not so flattering things that Pearl has said about her family, Eleanor gets back at her causing a big fight between the three of them.

Elementary students struggle with friendships and have to deal with issues like this all the time. I'm not sure if this book is going to appeal more to teachers, parents, and counselors than kids. I wondered if it was a bit didactic. Nicholas works as a counter to Pearl and Ainsley becoming friends. He too, is Eleanor's friend, but because he is a boy they don't hang out together. Once the girls resolve their issues, they are able to all be friends.

The subplot of girls having crushes on boys seemed off. Maybe I've been overseas too long. Or maybe its unique to this school that I have been at for eight years; either way, most of the students start their crushes later in school, grade 5. The kids I deal with are interested in friendships more than boyfriends or crushes, but I do think it might be the culture I'm living in. So depending on the reader or where you live, this might or might not be an issue for you. I also don't know of 4th graders tutoring peers. I've only seen peer tutors in high school. But these were questions that crossed my mind. The story is cute and fills a slot where there are not enough books for kids working toward reading fluency.

3 Smileys

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