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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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 PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved