4 Kids in 5E & 1 Crazy Year

Virginia F. Schwartz, Author Holiday House $16.95 (265p) ISBN 978-0-8234-1946-3
Four fifth-graders provide the somewhat choppy and repetitious narrative in Schwartz's (Send One Angel Down) novel set in a Queens school. As perky Ms. Hill welcomes her students to her classroom (""5E stands for excellence... You will all be excellent students in this room.... You are like poems still unwritten""), she hints at the lesson of the year: writing. She urges the youngsters to record ""noticings"" in their notebooks and to let their pencils ""do the talking."" Through their monologues, writings and the observations of peers, the personalities of the narrators emerge. Brooding Max, deeply missing his father (whom his abused mother left), takes refuge in reading. Daydreamer Willie, whose father walked out years before, feels his Jamaican grandmother is the only one who understands him and is terrified of losing her after she suffers a heart attack. Optimistic, Sicilian-born Giovanni struggles with reading and fears that he will have to repeat fifth grade. Outspoken Destiny, descended from a runaway slave and a Cherokee woman, is an unabashed busybody and (says Max) an ""in-your-face kind of girl."" Under Ms. Hill's gentle guidance, the kids gradually find their voices and self-confidence as writers, in the process revealing their concerns and their hopes in sometimes moving words. Though overwrought imagery and similes at times overrun the narrative (""My laughs swallowed me up like waves diving right down to my belly. It was a holiday feeling""), the tale exposes authentic emotional and academic challenges. Ages 8-12.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Genre: Children's
Paperback - 265 pages - 978-0-8234-2276-0
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