Justin Fisher Declares War!

James Preller, Author
James Preller, Scholastic Press, $15.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-545-03301-5
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Preller revisits the fifth grade at Spiro Agnew Elementary (the setting of Along Came Spider), this time focusing on Justin Fisher, a class clown whose antics have worn exceedingly thin. Recurrent clashes with the teacher and the increasing alienation of kids he once considered friends force Justin to reconsider his habit of taking nothing seriously (“He was trying to bug his teacher, to make the painfully boring day only kind of boring. But he had been annoying his friends and classmates without even knowing it”). A stint as emcee of the school talent show provides a forum for him to mend relationships and prove he can use his time in the spotlight effectively. Though middle-grade readers will likely recognize boys like Justin in their own lives, his need for attention is never explained, and the resolution comes too easily—he’s Jack Gantos’s Joey Pigza without the problematic home life, medication, and hard-won peace. Preller adeptly captures the frustrating dynamics of a classroom held hostage by a kid determined not to learn, but Justin himself is not especially memorable. Ages 8–12. (Aug.)
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