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I never read books much as a kid, and only recently am I trying to expand my reading repertoire. I heard this was good, so I decided to read it. Thankfully, it didn't disappoint. It's a nice little Slice of Life novel about a bunch of kids getting to know a heavyset classmate and eventually befriending her. The situations were very true to life, and the kids acted and talked like kids, with no Totally Radical speech or awkward dialogue that most people think kids say. I guess it helps that the authoress was once a teacher and school psychologist, and it's clear she knew what she was doing. The pacing is good, as there's always something happening in every chapter, characterization is well done, and nothing is overblown or dumbed down.
If anything, I think this is basically Blubber but without the bleak story and unrelentingly mean-spirited characters. I'd recommend this over Blubber, as not only is it much happier and more realistic, the characters are much more likeable and actually develop. It helps that Elsie, who does get bullied in the beginning, isn't exactly a saint herself, but again, she's a kid who sometimes does stupid things and has to face the consequences, and does develop nicely as a character. I do feel like the book could have been longer, as it's only about 120 pages, but it's a nice, short read if you don't want to commit to anything too huge.
Will say this though: I love Diane's mom. She's awesome for being more caring towards Elsie than her real mother is.
Books like this might not be for everyone, but sometimes a short, cute, Slice of Life story about kids being kids and having their own adventures and hardships is what we need to get through life. It's nice to take a trip back down memory lane and return to our childhood, back when we chatted with our pals and worried about lunch money. Highly recommend it.
This book is just the perfect mixture of a Slice Of Life story, a mild drama, and a true-to-life look at childhood. When I was in fifth grade myself and I read it, I could totally relate to the kids and the situations, as everything was just dead accurate and spot-on. Even as an adult, reading this book gave me a feeling of nostalgia and totally took me back, as its accurate portrayal of childhood still stands the test of time.
The pacing is excellent, as something interesting happens in every single chapter, which is more than I can say for most books. The characterization is believable, other than one little "too good to be true" thing: when Jenny starts sticking up for Elsie, she doesn't instantly become a bully magnet herself. Then again, that doesn't always happen in real life either, and I'd imagine that the author of the book, a former teacher and school psychologist, was probably realistically representing what her own school might have been like.
There's genuine character development. Jenny starts out treating Elsie the way pretty much any kid reading the book would, and the first-person narration is sarcastic and mocking at times. But as Jenny begins to see Elsie as human and starts to feel sorry for her, the narration becomes more sympathetic as well (but still occasionally makes jokes at Elsie's expense, as Jenny is a kid after all). Jenny's transition from viewing Elsie with disdain to becoming her friend may happen a little quickly considering it's a 120 page book, but it's handled believably, as we see from her own perspective why Jenny becomes sympathetic.
This book is enjoyable just as much for its portrayal of childhood as for the story itself. As Roger Ebert once said, "it's not what the story is, but how the story is told", and that's very true in many cases, including here. That's because there's more to this story than the main plot. While the plot doesn't stop progressing, there's a great many Slice Of Life moments that are just fun and sometimes funny, and very enjoyable to read. Something interesting or fun is always happening.
So come for the storyline, which is good, but stay for the fun and nostalgic trip back to childhood. Both tie into each other perfectly.
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