From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–A new teacher who is an admitted dork reveals to her eighth-grade Writers' Workshop students that she is related to rock superstar Nick Thompson. Not much impresses these savvy New York City kids, but they are suitably wowed. Nick, a songwriter, is invited to teach the class. He contends that a song is like a bowl of fruit, and that he needs to figure out how to paint it, using words as colors. There are infinite ways to create the canvas, using style, voice, genre, and much more. He challenges the students to each write a piece based on only seven simple elements: school, sixth grade, a reading test, a dropped pencil, an angry girl, lunch, and milk out the nose. The balance of the novel consists of the students' 50 projects, ranging from rap to haiku, monologue, fairy tales, a screenplay, etc. Durkee captures the students' jargon and behavior but the plot and its many characters are undifferentiated and undeveloped. Teachers and aspiring writers will enjoy the many clever ways a story can be told, while readers more interested in character development or plot are likely to give up after a few selections.–Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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Gr. 5-8. The writers in Ms. Vallas' eighth-grade writers' workshop are pretty blase, as one might expect from kids at a private school in Manhattan. But when Ms. Vallas announces that rock star-songwriter Nick Thompson is coming to talk to the class about writing, they are impressed. He explains that writing something is like painting a bowl of fruit: every artist will see things differently, use a different medium, and arrange the fruit in his or her own way. Nick gives the kids an assignment: write a story containing seven common elements--among them, a dropped pencil, chicken nuggets, a boy who tells a joke, and another boy who laughs so hard his drink spews out of his nose. The second half of Durkee's debut novel contains the fruit of the "Fruit Bowl Project": stories, poems, screenplays, and raps incorporating the elements. The idea is clever, but there are 50 finished offerings--that's at least 25 too many. The best are the limericks and haiku that capture the story points quickly, but some simply go on too long or are repetitive. Almost no one comes up with a joke funny enough to make a kid blow his drink. Still, this will be great inspiration for kids and teachers; it's a creativity wake-up call. Ilene Cooper
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