All of the Above
Shelley Pearsall. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $15.99 (234pp) ISBN 978-0-316-11524-7
Pearsall's (Crooked River) engaging multi-voiced narrative presents an inspiring account (based on a true event) of four African-American seventh-graders who wind up in an after-school math club in Cleveland, Oh. Their white teacher, Mr. Collins, begins with a vague hope: that some of his class might lose their apathy by working together to build a Stage 7 tetrahedron composed of 16,384 pieces (besting a California school's Stage 6 construction). He offers a passing grade to James Harris III, an angry student flunking math, if he will help with the project. Outgoing Marcel's hardworking father (owner of the local Willy Q's Barbecue) curtails his son's participation because he needs his son's labor. Sharice, bright and sociable, makes helpful lists, organizes their Christmas party, yet suffers privately, severely neglected by ""foster non-parent #5."" Shy, smart Rhondell wonders if Mr. Collins's contest will bring her dream of college closer. Mr. Collins is no super-teacher-just a 20-year veteran trying to inspire a rowdy, at-risk class. The kids struggle with daunting problems, but they embrace the challenge. When vandals destroy their work-in-progress, they are devastated. It's the unlikely James who reinvigorates the group, using his artistic talents to guide the tetrahedron's color scheme. The kids (aided by Willy G and Rhondell's Aunt Asia's beauty salon colleagues) work into July to triumph. Seasoned with recipes from Willy G's, this tale sparkles as it unifies voices of pride, determination and hope. Ages 8-12.
Reviewed on: 09/04/2006