cover image Starting School with an Enemy

Starting School with an Enemy

Elisa Carbone. Alfred A. Knopf, $16 (103pp) ISBN 978-0-679-88639-6

Carbone's (Corey's Story) frank and energetic voice invigorates a common scenario: an elementary school bully gives a new kid a hard time. But readers will cheer rather than pity spunky Sarah. As the story begins, Sarah is riding her bike when she sees a boy on a tricycle in the path of an oncoming truck; to keep him from being hit, she runs her bike into him. No one understands (""I must have stood there for a full five minutes waiting for someone to say, `Cut. Cut. That was terrible. Let's do the scene again, and this time everybody... praise Sarah for saving the little boy's life' ""). The child's older brother, Eric, flings derisive remarks at Sarah once school opens, and mild warfare erupts, with plenty of amusing battles. Eventually the fifth-grader learns that seemingly sweet revenge can sour--it temporarily costs her the companionship of her new best friend, Christina. Carbone shapes characters with such lifelike dimension and through conversation so true that her story is at once comfortably familiar and entirely novel. Especially funny--and wickedly on target--is the author's phonetic relaying of teen-speak as uttered by Sarah's older brother (when Christina first shows up at their door, he mumbles to his sister that ""sumbuy's ear tuh seya""). This middle-grade novel belongs at the head of its class. Ages 8-13. (June)