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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Earth below me, drifting, falling . . .
First and foremost I want to stop right now the temptation anyone may have to compare this book to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It ends here. "Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree," is a treat. A delight. An engaging romp, if you will, but it is NOT to be compared to Mark Haddon 's book, no matter how tempting a prospect. Let us consider this book...
Published on March 27, 2007 by E. R. Bird

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reading levels need to be challenging for kids to improve
I saw this book and wondered how it could have a reading level across three grades. It appeared to be at a 3rd grade level but posted at 5th grade level. In the 19th century 5th graders were reading James Fenimore Cooper.
Published 3 months ago by Joseph P. Mugivan


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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Earth below me, drifting, falling . . ., March 27, 2007
First and foremost I want to stop right now the temptation anyone may have to compare this book to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. It ends here. "Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree," is a treat. A delight. An engaging romp, if you will, but it is NOT to be compared to Mark Haddon 's book, no matter how tempting a prospect. Let us consider this book entirely on its own merits and leave speculations regarding the main character's mental state to the readers themselves. Newbie first-time author Lauren Tarshis has written a book with some serious buzz flitting about it. Memorable and supremely interesting, this is a book worth holding on to for a very long time.

She's not like other girls, that Emma-Jean Lazarus. She doesn't burst into tears every day in middle school or giggle about boys with her friends. Come to think of it, she doesn't seem to have all that many friends to begin with. That's okay, though. If Emma-Jean is anything, she's comfortable being herself. That's something Colleen Pomerantz would probably pay anything to be. When Emma-Jean finds Colleen sobbing in the girls' bathroom (which is just as illogical as it is out of character) she vows to help Colleen out any way she can. Of course, that may mean some forgery here and there, but Emma-Jean is confident in her abilities. Now, however, she has mixed feelings towards her widowed mother falling for the nice Indian guy boarding with them, while at the same time learning that this whole "friendship" idea may not be as straightforward as all that. People don't always make sense and the world is not always fair, but sometimes change can be good. Even if it's not entirely comfortable.

I'll level with you here. I read this book roundabout a month ago. The thoughts that have percolated and popped in my noggin are not first-impressions or sudden flashes of inspiration. So as I picked this book up to review it, something strange occurred to me; I could remember everything in it perfectly. I could remember the plot, and the characters, and teensy tiny little details here and there. When you review a lot of children's books, they all tend to run together after a while into a big old slurry blur. Not this book.

Part of Tarshis' strength lies in her characters, of course. Emma-Jean isn't emotional, but at the same time she isn't so cold that the reader doesn't care for her. You warm to her instantly, even as she puzzles through the peculiarities of middle school interactions. I like that from page one you get a sense of Emma-Jean's personality. ". . . crying was not a logical way to express one's opposition to the seventh-grade science curriculum," she thinks after two girls cry at having to dissect a sheep's eyeball. As for Colleen, she was exactly the kind of person I could understand. ". . . Colleen was always thinking and worrying and obsessing about things." Been there. Most of us have. It's just rare to see that feeling fleshed out so well into a living breathing person.

The writing, in and of itself, is subtle, but not so subtle that it won't make for good discussions. For example, when Colleen decides not to get angry at Emma-Jean it reads, "She couldn't be mad at Emma-Jean, because poor Emma-Jean didn't understand anything about anything." The heck she doesn't! Emma-Jean is a uniquely skilled individual. When she wants to hook her teacher up with the man boarding with herself and her mother she knows how to drop a dinner invitation with a sly, "You could bring your boyfriend if you like," to determine her teacher's relationship status. Descriptions pop out at the reader with a bit of intensity you wouldn't expect off-hand. When Colleen feels terrible, the pink wall color, "made her feel like she was trapped inside an old dog's ear." Not just any dog, mind you. An old dog. Ick.

The assumption is going to pop up (hence the "Curious Incident" reference at the beginning of this review) somewhere suggesting that Emma-Jean has some mild form of autism. Yet the book never says that, and the book is, when you think about it, the only reference on the topic we have. I don't think we can go about leaping to conclusions willy-nilly. Just because someone isn't doesn't act like everyone else, do we have to label them? When Emma-Jean explains why she doesn't want any friends she simply says, "They are too complicated." You don't have to diagnose a person to agree with a statement like that.

Now I run a homeschooler bookgroup, and recently I've been taking the time to assess the readability of the books that come my way. For example, recently my kids and I read Rules (Newbery Honor Book) by Cynthia Lord and we were just bowled over by how well that title works as a point of discussion. It engages the child readers so much so that everyone loves the book. So I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that Tarshis ' book does the same thing. It has that indefinable quality that makes the reader just want to pick up the title again and again and again. The ending is top notch (coming up with a quilt-related solution to one of Emma-Jean's woes that gives me shivers to read), the beginning biting, and the middle engaging and endearing in turns. Recommended with a "yes, indeed" for kicks.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Falling Emma, June 1, 2007
Emma-Jean is the ultimate observer of her middle-school environment. Greatly influenced by her deceased, mathematical father, she tries to approach the strange behavior of her seventh-grade peers in a logical

manner - until the day she finds Colleen crying in the girl's restroom. While comforting Collen, Emma-Jean is startled when Collen, not wanting to leave the restroom with swollen eyes, grabs her by the hand and begs,

"Emma-Jean, please help me." Extremely intelligent, Emma-Jean decides to help Colleen resolve her problem with the school's hateful "queen bee ." She succeeds in resolving the problem. She then decides she is good at resolving problems and becomes the unofficial, uninvited problem-solver for many of her classmates with hugely unintended consequences for everyone -- including the kind but hapless Colleen.

This first novel is full of quirky, understated humor. When Colleen tells Emma-Jean that '"Some people aren't nice.' Emma-Jean knew this was true. People sometimes behaved unkindly toward one another, even at William Gladstone Middle School." Massive understatement. The author knows her milieu. Her story works beautifully on many levels and rounds out happily in the end. Destined for greatness.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For all you hyperintellectual girls...., May 13, 2008
... this one is for you. Ever feel like the girls around you live on some other planet? Do you yourself feel like an alien in your own environment? This book may give you hope that one day even you will feel at home in your own skin.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous audio recording of a terrific first novel, September 12, 2007
Gummer, the daughter of Meryl Streep, does an absolutely terrific job of bringing to life the various characters (brainy Emma Jean, anxious Colleen, villainous Laura, even wise Vikram!) from this winning debut novel. It's also a plus that this trim book, packed full of plot and humor, is only one-long-car-trip length, clocking in at just over three hours. (I found myself in the rare position of wishing it was longer.) Gummer's reading is so absorbing, this most girly of stories was even enjoyed by a 13-year-old boy, who rolled his eyes at all the seventh-grade dramatics, but nonetheless admitted it was like spying on a conversation he'd never be privy to any other way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out Of A Tree, March 22, 2007
A Kid's Review
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out Of A Tree is a great book by Lauren Tarshis. The book is not for sale yet but when it is every one is going to love it, I can tell. I read it because my teacher Mrs. Edinger had a copy of the book and at first I did not know that I really wanted to read it but now I think that it is a really good and realistic. It is about a girl named Emma-Jean. She loves to be organized and to help her friends and teachers when they need help. For example she helps this girl named Colleen because she thinks that her best friend is not her friend anymore because of a really mean girl named Laura Gilroy. But even though she is very nice everyone in school thinks that Emma-Jean is strange. Emma-Jean's father died when Emma-Jean was younger. She and her mother are going through a tough time and Emma-Jean is fine. Or not. This book is really good because it is a pretty fast read and has about one hundred and fifty pages. If you see this book than you should definitely read it even if you think that you will not like it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars smart, strange, seventh grade girl tries to solve others' problems in this light read about the difficulties of trying to fit in, December 16, 2011
When a fellow female classmate of a smart, strange seventh grader named Emma-Jean Lazarus, asks her for help, she decides to provide assistance. And when the method she chooses (borrowing an idea put forth by Poincare about being able to solve "even the most complex problem" "through creative thinking") works, she tries and succeeds a second time with a different student. But dishonesty is never a good policy and her original problem-solving scheme comes back to bite her in the derriere. The girl who was wronged goes on a rampage and Emma-Jean tries to prevent things from falling apart. Fortunately, things work out (with the help of a hardworking, long-time janitor, who's got her back) and she learns some valuable lessons, though not before falling out of a tree. In a side-story, she tries to act as matchmaker for the 31-year-old tenant, an student from India, who lives with her and her mother, her father having died about two years prior.

Overall, there is little to complain about in this short, light, G-rated story (although I take issue with the author's decision to include a 7th grade girl's reference to cellulite (p 109), "Colleen had the worst cellulite in America and didn't like changing in front of people," which seems inappropriate and unnecessary given the overall tone of the book), except that I can't imagine much of an audience for a story about middle school students written at a lower-than-middle-school reading level. After some self-debate, I chose to give it four stars only because of its minimal level of inappropriate behavior (mostly dishonesty on the part of Emma-Jean, and an unkind classmate's antics) is a nice change. Similarly light reading on middle school life: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger and Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. Better: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emma Jean is quirky and lovable, September 14, 2009
This review is from: Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree (Paperback)
Emma Jean will not cry, like other middle school girls, "because it's not a logical way to express because one's opposition to the seventh-grade science curriculum." But, she will make you laugh and break your heart as she tries act as a problem solver for her friends, providing what seem to be logical answers to their emotional problems. Always quirky and strangely empathetic, Emma Jean will win over young readers and adults alike.
-- Reviewed by Michelle Delisle
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emma-Jean Lazarus Made Me Fall Out of My Seat!, February 13, 2008
Emma-Jean Lazarus (what a delicious name!) is not quite like her seventh grade peers. While a keen observer of their behaviors and social interactions, she nonetheless remains a little aloof from them all. Highly literal, and almost painfully logical, Emma-Jean doesn't really attract the friendship of her peers either -- they think her just a tad weird and mostly remain indifferent to her. However, one day, Emma-Jean finds a fellow classmate crying in the bathroom, and Emma-Jean perceives (in the classmate's various wailings about a best friend's betrayal) a plea for help. Ever the logical problem-solver, Emma jean applies her analytical mind to the issue and soon comes up with a, frankly, morally dubious solution. However, to Emma-Jean, it seems she's done just the right thing -- solved her new friend's problem.

Emma-Jean soon finds other problems to solve for her classmates, but doesn't realize the ripple-effects her various unusual-if-logical solutions are creating. It seems that there is one problem Emma-Jean hasn't been able to puzzle out quite yet -- the mysteries of the human heart and mind.

This book is charming and chuckle-worthy (with the occasional laugh-out-loud moment), but without stooping to humor at the expense of others -- especially the rather obvious target of Emma-Jean. Emma-Jean, while not formerly diagnosed, would be familiar to most reader's who know someone diagnosed with some of the milder forms of Autism or Asperger's syndrome. While the humor often derives from the disconnect between how Emma-Jean perceives her world and how the world is really structured (a sort of dramatic irony), the subtle jabs are more often aimed at the rather silly ins and outs of "normal" human behavior, rather than Emma-Jeans clearly logical analysis.

Emma-Jean is a very short read, but manages to pack lots of action, humor, and even several very touching moments into a small little package. The pacing is great (and I don't often concern myself with pacing), but Emma-Jean's larger-than-average vocabulary will rule out reluctant readers, and some portion of its target audience who doesn't want to read with a dictionary handy. Frankly, it may be one of those children's books that has more appeal for its adult readers... but then again, that's what I am!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars insert superlative adjective here, April 1, 2007
I loved watching Emma-Jean try to apply practical solutions to the problems created by the students in her middle school where, as we all know, there is very little practicality, and I loved loved loved the kind of greek chorus that the author created out of 3 girls devoted to practicing dance moves during lunch time who are constantly chirping things like "you're so pretty!" to their fearless leader. I thought this was perfect.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, March 1, 2007
A Kid's Review
This book is truly amazing. I loved every page of it. I was able to connect with the character, feeling as if she was close to me. Excellent book.
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Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis (Paperback - May 15, 2008)
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