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Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree Hardcover – March 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 5–7—Intellectually gifted but socially aloof from her seventh-grade peers, Emma-Jean is nonetheless happy with her life. She has positive relationships with several adults, a number of interests to pursue, and the memory of her late father to inspire her. Her life inexorably changes after a chance encounter with a classmate leads her to become a problem-solver without realizing the ripple effect that her actions will have. Readers will be fascinated by Emma-Jean's emotionless observations and her adult-level vocabulary (e.g., palliative). Tarshis pulls off a balancing act, showing the child's detachment yet making her a sympathetic character. Exceptionally fleshed-out secondary characters add warmth to the story, including the school janitor who unobtrusively resolves all manner of middle school drama. The plot meshes well with the setting, a close-up of school social life. Future Jane Austen fans will appreciate the subtle humor, minute observations, and snapshot of the unwritten class structure that governs 12-year-old behavior. Get this into the right hands by recommending it as a read-aloud for kids lucky enough to be read to in later elementary or early middle school.—Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Supremely logical Emma-Jean has little in common with her seventh-grade classmates, and she observes their often-tumultuous social interactions with a detached, scientific curiosity. But when kindly Colleen seeks her advice in dealing with the school's resident mean girl, Emma-Jean is moved to apply her analytical mind--and a bit of desktop forgery--to aid her classmate. Pleased with the initial results of her meddling and a newfound sense of belonging, Emma-Jean sets out righting the everyday wrongs of middle-school life with some surprising success. Told from the alternating viewpoints of ultrarational Emma-Jean and sensitive, approval-seeking Colleen, a few key events of the story seem implausible, such as a shady car dealership exchanging a new car for a lemon after receiving one of Emma-Jean's flimsy forgeries. Still, the story ends on an inspiring up note, with Emma-Jean attending her first school dance and developing tentative friendships with her fellow classmates, which should please fans. Kristen McKulski
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 11 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 6
  • Lexile Measure: 830L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Dial (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803731647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803731646
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,042,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lauren Tarshis often wonders how she came to spend most of her waking moments thinking about disasters, as the author of the children's historical fiction series "I Survived." Each book takes readers into the heart of history's most thrilling and terrifying events, including the sinking of the Titanic, the Shark Attacks of 1916, Hurricane Katrina, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the San Francisco earthquake, 9/11, the Battle of Gettysburg and many more.
Lauren conducts extensive research to bring her topics to life. She has traveled to most of the locations where her books are set. Her goal is to open readers' eyes to new chapters in history and to inspire them with stories of hope and resilience.

Lauren is also the author of the the award-winning Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, and is the editor of Storyworks Magazine.

For more information about Lauren, go to
To learn more about Storyworks,
And check out the I Survived Website:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kemie Nix on June 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Reader on May 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
... 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on March 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sue Corbett on September 12, 2007
Format: Audio CD
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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Format: Hardcover
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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