I hope you don’t mind if I do a little grandmotherly bragging. My granddaughter, Lou (age 9), has well-rounded interests. She’s a good friend, a good soccer player, and is quite the reader.
Lou has already read most of the Newberry winners, all the Harry Potter’s, the Lemony Snickets, plus all sorts of other children’s classic and contemporary books. Best of all, Lou has good taste in literature and can critically analyze what she’s read. Lou has joined her older sister in making good book recommendations to me.
One of the books Lou recommended recently is Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel. I’m rather fond of children in this age group covered by this novel. Kids in this age group (9 to 10 year olds) don’t quite have that fully developed verbal and social filter they’ll have in another year.
These kids interpret the world exactly as they see it. They are also trying to figure out how they fit into the scheme of things. When Lou told me to read Pack of Dorks, she said it would give me a good look at fourth graders. She was right. My goodness, she was so right!
To give you the flavor of the story I’m going to share with you the story’s beginning:
This was the biggest recess of my life.
Today, I would become—officially—the bravest, most daring, and by far the most mature fourth-grader at Autumn Grove Intermediate School.
Today, as soon as that bell rang, I was on my way to becoming a legend.
Today, I was going to kiss Tom Lemming.
Here’s the plan: The whole class will run outside. Tom will head straight to the ball shed with Henry. Becky and I will check and double check that Ms. Drake and Mr. Peverell aren’t paying attention. Then we’ll sneak behind the shed too.
This incident is just the beginning of the high drama that will be a part of Lucy’s life in the fourth grade. She learns what it’s like to be one of the kids everyone else picks on, the one no one wants to eat lunch with. As Lucy become aware of the unique differences in all the kids in her classroom, she also has some challenges at home. The whole family, but especially her mom, become stressed when a new baby, who is “different,” joins the family. Lucy’s fourth-grade year is very challenging. Lucy comes to appreciate the wide range of individuals who people her life.
Lou and I both loved this book. We believe the author really understands what it’s like to be this age. There were times in the story when the characters made us feel sad and mad, disappointed and concerned. But, there were also times when we laughed out-loud or just smiled. We identified with the struggles of Lucy, of the clueless girl who picked her nose, and truly felt the pain of the boy who wished people wouldn’t notice him. They were all very real.
We were critical of the adults in the story, particularly the teachers. We didn’t understand why the fourth-grade teacher didn’t notice that all her students were out back behind the ball shed. Or why she didn’t notice the boy in the front row who never talked. Not that all teachers are perfect, but these things seemed like they should be basics for all teachers.
We particularly loved the storytelling and the dialogue in Pack of Dorks. The issues – bullying, kids with special needs, and respect for individual differences was not above the understanding of fourth-graders. This is the author’s first book, but we’re very hopeful she’ll soon give us another one.
Five star rating from both Lou and her Nana.
Pack of Dorks was published by Sky Pony Press, October 2014.