If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period
by Gennifer Choldenko
The author of the Newbery Honor Book Al Capone Does My Shirts is back with another touching, funny, thought-provoking book about family, school, and social issues. This time the narration is split between two characters' points of view: a rich white girl named Kirsten, and a poor black boy named Walk who has a scholarship to attend her school. By the end of the book they find out they have a lot more in common than you might expect.
Kirsten is insecure and unhappy. Her parents are fighting all the time. She is losing her best friend to a clique of mean, popular girls. And since unhappiness makes her hungry, she's been gaining weight. Every day at school seems to expose her to a fresh humiliation. Oddly enough, the few people whose company makes her happy are the misfits, the scholarship students like Walk and his best friend Matteo.
You'll cheer Kirsten along as she concocts a plan to protect Matteo from the evil of a girl named Brianna Hanna-Hines -- you know the type, don't you? It's interesting that the cutest girl in seventh grade is such a villain. It's also interesting how deeply real the members of Kirsten's family are, flaws and all, from her embarrassingly funny sister to her almost awful mother. For a healthy, bright, privileged girl, Kirsten has a lot of challenges to work through.
But Walk has even more. Brilliantly gifted, hard-working, and a natural-born leader, he attracts people to himself without even trying. Meanwhile, on the inside, he is constantly fighting a crusade for civil rights. His charming personality covers a hot streak of anger about all the ways he is treated differently because of his race. His single mom worries about him, worries about his secretive cousin and all the kids he hangs out with, and worries most of all about keeping the secret that is about to break open and change his life.
Readers young and old will laugh, wince, and warm to Kirsten's first-person and Walk's third-person narrative. Set in a world of high-priced private schools that, for most of us, is as remote as "the Rock" in Al Capone Does My Shirts, this book opens our eyes and opens our hearts to a pair of lovable kids and their memorable, but maybe not-so-unique, problems.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 10+
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