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Larger-Than-Life Lara Hardcover – August 17, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-6–Ten-year-old Laney Grafton is more than a little relieved when Lara Phelps (immediately dubbed Larger-Than-Life Lara) joins her class. Enormously fat and relentlessly kind, Lara distracts the local bullies from all the negative attention that Laney has previously received. Unfortunately, Laras cheerfulness attracts quite a lot of nasty attention from her other classmates as well until something happens that tears down Laras remarkable spirit entirely. Laney is an engaging narrator. Particularly delightful is the way in which she tells the story. Each chapter has a title that is related to the narrative, such as Rising Action, Suspense, Dialogue, etc. Laney then explains why she chose to include or hold back pertinent information in accordance with her teachers storytelling rules. Her explanation of how to write a book is just as interesting as the events that shes describing. Best of all, none of this detracts from the novels emotional core. Thoroughly enjoyable and unexpectedly wry, this book is as intelligent as it is succinct. A good companion piece to Tony Abbotts Firegirl (Little, Brown, 2006).–Elizabeth Bird, New York Public Library
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From Booklist

Gr. 4-6. Laney Grafton is at the bottom of the fourth-grade pecking order until 300-pound Lara joins the class. But when the teasing and practical jokes land on Lara, she turns the other cheek with a smile and rhymed couplets, reaching out to other students with an uncanny knowledge of their names, talents, and concerns. Laney narrates the story of Lara's arrival and survival. Along the way, readers learn of Laney's concerns and her troubled home life. The unusual device of using the narrator to talk about elements of writing (minor characters, conflict, transitions) as she "writes" the story may have a pedagogical purpose, but it has its drawbacks in a children's book. It not only slows the pace but also draws attention to the fact (easily ignored in a conventional first-person narrative) that the book was not actually written by a child. Still, Mackall does pull off some touching moments and offers food for thought and discussion. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 830L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers (August 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525477268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525477266
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dandi won her first writing contest as a 10-year-old tomboy. Her 50 words on "Why I Want to Be Batboy for the Kansas City A's" won first place, but the team wouldn't let a girl be batboy. It was her first taste of rejection.
Since then, Dandi Daley Mackall has become an award-winning author of over 400 books for children of all ages, with sales of 4 million copies in 22 countries. THE SILENCE OF MURDER is the winner of the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery 2012. Recent picture books with Sleeping Bear Press include Legend of Ohio, Rudy Rides the Rails: A Depression Era Story (Notable Book 2008 - Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People National Council of Social Studies & Children's Book Council; winner of the Angel Award, 2008; Winner of the "Award of Excellence" from Chicago Book Show 2007) and 2008 release, A Girl Named Dan (her own "batboy" story, and a lesson on Title IX), 2 Mom's Choice Awards & Amelia Bloom Award. Eva Underground, Harcourt young adult novel, nominated ALA Best Book 2007, starred Kirkus review, awarded a Top Teen Read by New York Public Library, finalist for Ohioana Award, was based on the author's experiences behind the Iron Curtain. Love Rules was awarded Romantic Times' Top Pick. Middle-grade fiction, Larger-than-Life Lara, Dutton/Penguin, which teaches how to write, while tackling the problem of bullying, is on the KY Bluegrass Award List 2007-8; William Allan White Award list, 2008-9; KS and KY Children's Choice lists. Her Winnie the Horse Gentler series has sold over half a million books and Starlight Animal Rescue is a Gold Medallion finalist. Dandi received the 2009 Helen Keating Ott Award for distinguished contribution toward promoting high moral and ethical values in children and young adult literature. She also received the Distinguished Alumna Award in 2008 from the University of Missouri. Dandi is a national speaker, keynoting at conferences and Young Author events, and has made dozens of appearances on TV, including ABC, NBC, and CBS. Visit Dandi at www.dandibooks.com, winniethehorsegentler.com, and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85oaIUbJ8j8

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on June 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Lara came in one day, and every-one started to giggle and stare. She was HUGE, very fat. So the kids started to call her Larger-Than-Life Lara. When a boy passed her a very mean note, Lara didn't say, "teacher, teacher! That boy just handed me a mean note!" The boy was about to go to the princibal's office for it, but Lara stopped her teacher and said a beautiful, nice poem about the boy and sat down. Now everyone would have tattled on them, and been glad they were at the princabals office. But not Lara. She memorized all of her lines for the play Fair Day by poems. She divided them up. Then, at the time of the play, the boy who had passed her the mean note splashed water balloons,and card-board pigs on her. Lara was about to cry, but then she smiled. While in the prinibals office with her parents, lara did not tell on who did that trich, even though she knew very well who did it. She left school that day, because her parents said that the kids here were too awful to lara. But then, as they were pulling out, every-one ran out with a sign, that said something nice about her, a poem. But the narrerator just said "THANKS" on her sign, but that was O.K for Larger than Life Lara. Lara was always smiling, no matter the situation. When we went to the book store, I picked up the book, and started reading! I couldn't stop, even when my brother started to bug me! I refused to leave before the book was finsihed. My parents said, "Time to Go," I never moved from my chair, and rthey said it 3 more times, but I never moved! Finally they just gave up and let me read until it was all done! I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo glad I stayed! It was worth it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Only-A-Child VINE VOICE on February 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Another Dani Mackall winner. Very gritty, much like a 4th grade version of Todd Solandz's "Welcome to the Dollhouse" (1996). Somebody has already mentioned the "To Kill A Mockingbird" parallels so I am confident that I was not the only one to immediately form a mental image of Mary Badham.

Laney Grafton is the ten-year-old narrator of the story, which she claims (at the beginning) is not about her but about the title character, a 300-pound girl who has just joined Laney's 4th grade class. The story soon begins to contradict Laney's early claim and by the end the reader realizes that it is really Laney's coming-of-age story, with Lara serving an allegorical purpose.

There are some moments of especially profound insights such as when Laney discusses everyone's laughter the first time Lara is insulted: "Theresa laughed. She's kind of chubby, and I got the feeling she wasn't entirely against the idea of having someone in class who made her look skinny. I got to admit that I laughed too. But it wasn't a real laugh, and I guess that makes it worse". This assessment (or confession) says all that needs to by said about Laney's and Teresa's positions in the classroom dynamic, occupying that large middle ground between the bullies and the main victim; feeling a sort of guilty relief that someone else is drawing the majority of the cruelty and abuse.

Mackall does a good job of steering clear of the standard child's book formula, which would have made it mandatory that Laney became good friends with Lara (she doesn't). And Mackall structures the chapters in such a way that Laney gives young reader's instruction on story elements and the pitfalls that a young writer should avoid.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I used this book to work with a Chinese student this summer. It was her choice and she really liked it. As an ESL tutoring tool, it was just right for this student, since she spoke and understood English fairly well to begin with. The vocabulary was a little challenging, but luckily, this girl relishes challenges. She was able to get many of the hidden nuances betwren the lines without my having to explain them to her. The theme of bullying is handled with care and understanding without being saccharine.

A nice piece of preadolescent literature!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By tessk on September 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
There are not enough superlatives for this one. I read a Kirkus review that totally "got it" regarding the instructions for writing a book which are interwoven into the plot. Kirkus said, "Her explanation of how to write a book is just as interesting as the events that she's describing. Best of all, none of this detracts from the novel's emotional core." Absolutely true.

This book is simply magical. Although for children, my husband and I read it aloud with not a kid in sight and thoroughly enjoyed it. Bravo!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By game critic on February 27, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
really good the part where laney sees her brother at the play makes me cry it was amazing u have to read it to understand bullying and life it will change u on judging others youll teach respect and it will make u laugh and think really hard READ THIS U WONT WASTE MONEY OR TIME at first u wont like it KEEP READING ULL LOVE IT I SWEAR NO LIE
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