From School Library Journal
Grade 2–4—Fourth-grader Riley O'Rourke wants to play saxophone in instrumental music, but his mother can't afford to rent one. He can't possibly make enough money to buy one, and, even if he could, Mom might not let him, "because he was having enough trouble getting his regular homework done." A current assignment includes reading a biography (he chooses Teddy Roosevelt) and preparing to attend his teacher's biography tea in character. The plot moves smoothly to a satisfying conclusion that finds Riley gaining determination, new work habits, and a sax through reading about Roosevelt's life ("If Teddy Roosevelt had wanted a saxophone, he would have gotten himself a saxophone. Somehow"). The believable cast of characters includes best-friend Grant, who decides to wear a loincloth to portray Gandhi; overachiever Sophie, who must have 700 notecards on Helen Keller; and belligerent Erika, who seems to have gotten nicer as Queen Elizabeth. Alley's occasional black-and-white sketches are appealing and give additional information. Children will appreciate this gentle lesson about achieving a goal.—Lee Bock, Glenbrook Elementary School, Pulaski, WI
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Everyone in fourth-grader Riley O'Rourke's class has been given an assignment in which each student must research a famous person and then dress as that person for a special party. Riley is assigned Theodore Roosevelt, but while he's working on his biography, he's also trying to figure out how he can play the saxophone in the school band. The problem is that Riley's single mom simply can't afford the rental for the instrument. Eventually, Riley absorbs some of T. R.'s can-do spirit, marches into the band room, and presents his dilemma to the band instructor. The instructor lets Riley have a used instrument at no cost, and the problem is solved. Lots of funny lines and comical situations enliven the simple story, which is also enriched by its portrait of grade-school friendships and goofy classroom happenings, depicted in Alley's appealing spot drawings. Todd MorningCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved