Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2000
I have read so many books in my life that I sometimes feel that I have warped my sense of reality. But of all the books I have ever read, and that has to be at least thousands, this is the book I have read the most. I am 21 now, I have been reading in since I was in third grade. But I don't just read it, or remember it as some cheexy book from when I was a kid. Barthe DeClements was a school psychologist for many years, and that comes through in her writing. There's not a character in this book that rings false, I could picture each one of them as someone I knew. All these years later, the story is so familiar to me that I should be tired of it. But I am not. This really is a classic for kids, because everyone dislikes and them relates to Elsie. Elsie, of course, goes on to become the heroine of two more of DeClements novels, "How Do You Lose Those Ninth Grade Blues" and "Seventeen And In-Between". These are also rich novels, and they bring a happy end to characters we've loved forever. But I know everyone else wants another sequel! Start with this incomparable work, and then get to know the rest of DeClements fiction. You'll never forget it, trust me.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 1999
Barthe DeClements has created the most wonderful book for fifth-graders to read. Kids of all ages and grades would appreciate it as well, but I imagine that it is a target for most fifth-graders. There is humor, for sure. Cracks about Elsie Edwards' weight, such as when she's walking with Jenny, Diane, and Sharon, some sixth-grade boys say the bunch is "three flagpoles and a beach ball" and "three asparagus strings and a tomato". Elsie at first has no friends, and is disliked by everyone for stealing lunch money and scrounging at lunch time. But Jenny befriends her, and convinces Diane and Sharon to give her a chance as well. This is a read full of friendship, the real world, and fifth grade. And I declare one thing about the author of this book: Barthe DeClements is a genius!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2002
Is nothing fair for you in fifth grade?If so,the book Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade is the perfect book for you to read. Another reason to read the book is because it is full of friendship,so for all of you who like friendship books, this is for you.
The story is focused on the life of Elsie Edwards, who goes to a new school and is not welcome there. Elsie is an overweight girl, who is on a diet, but still asks people for food. One day, she starts stealing money, and when the teacher and the principal find out, the classroom door has to be locked. Jennifer, and Diane, are two girls in her class who don't like her. A little later in the book, Jennifer and Diane...Find out when you read the book!
I would recommend this book to forth and fifth graders, because it tells people about being friends, and relates to real life. The reason I really likes this book is because I liked the technique that the author used (of really explaining the characters feelings), and also, I could relate it to one of my friends' life. I read this book in the end of fourth grade, and I knew I was ready to help new people fit in in fifth grade. For all the people who don't like to read, THIS IS FOR YOU!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2002
... I'm 23 years old, and I still love this book. It was an ever present staple of my childhood reading library. This book was my first paperbackpurchase, which I bought after I became really obsessed with the book and was denied from taking it out of the library anymore, because it seemed that I -always- ahd it checked out. This book was absoulutly great because it shows how even "big fat theives" need friends too.
When a girl named Elsie Edwards is a new student in Jenny Sawyers 5th grade class, the class makes fun of her (behind her back of course) because of how heavy she is. When some of the class' lunch money starts disappearing, they discover that it was Elsie who's been taking it. After a while, after Elsie, a math whiz, tutors Jenny in math, Jenny befriends Elsie and so does alot of kids. The ending really shocked me when I first read it, and I know you'll be shocked too!
I highly recommend this book to any parent looking for great reading material for their kids. In fact, I was so shocked to see that Amazon carried this title, that I actually placed a copy of it on my OWN Wishlist, so that my children can enjoy it when they've grown
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I was first exposed to the work of Barthe DeClements in my FOURTH-grade year - 1989. During story time, my teacher read this book to us, and I immediately fell in love with it.

Some may compare this to Judy Blume's "Blubber," as both are about fifth-graders, both feature girls who are singled out for teasing and torment due to being overweight, and both the narrator and the object of torment are presented - initially at least - as unsympathetic characters (Elsie because she steals from her classmates and panhandles for forbidden sweets during lunch, Jenifer because of her initial hate of Elsie before she begins to understand Elsie's life situation). However, this book seems to have more heart and certainly has a more satisfying conclusion than "Blubber."

In "Blubber" (which I still enjoy) Judy Blume never characterizes Linda "Blubber" Fischer as anything more than a chubby pushover without a backbone. In "NFIFG," we come to understand why Elsie is the way she is - she comes from a broken home, she's been abandoned by her father (at least it seems so), she has a verbally and physically abusive mother who very likely has some psychological issues of her own, and she eats for comfort. (In that respect the book, published in 1981, may be seen as ahead of its time, being written at a time when the psychology behind obesity was not as widely discussed in the public sphere as it is today.) At the same time, her stealing is not condoned and she is made to face the consequences for her actions.

One other reviewer thought the book was an example of fat-shaming. I can't disagree more. Elsie's suffering doesn't end when she begins to lose weight, because she still has a less-than-ideal home life to contend with, including a mother who is so neglectful and abusive toward her that she won't even buy her new clothes when the old clothes no longer fit (until a classmate's mother shames her into doing so). Jenifer becomes Elsie's friend not because of Elsie's weight loss, but because she comes to understand Elsie's life situation better and to realize that Elsie is a human being with real feelings. Eventually she is able to bring Sharon and Diane around to do the same. And despite her weight loss, Elsie is still a target for bullies and name-calling. There is a sequel, HOW DO YOU LOSE THOSE NINTH GRADE BLUES?, published in 1983, which continues the story of Elsie into high school, and even though she has slimmed down into a svelte beauty by then, the weight loss hasn't solved all of her problems, as she still suffers from insecurity and her relationship with her mother is still strained. Nowhere do I see a message along the lines of MAGGIE GOES ON A DIET (i.e. that losing weight will magically make you popular and solve all of your problems).

As for the narrator, "Blubber"'s Jill Brenner is a spoiled brat and a jerk essentially throughout the entire book, and never grows or matures in any way - the lesson she learns is about standing up for herself, not about treating others with respect, and she never feels any remorse for the torment she caused Linda, even after she herself is on the receiving end of the teasing. In "NFIFG," Jenifer's coming to know Elsie as more than just "the fat girl" - as a human being with real emotions who is mired in a very tough time in her life - seems somewhat cliche and "After School Special"-like at first, but it has better lessons for readers than "Blubber." Jenifer is simply much more likeable than Jill.

Since this was published over 30 years ago, a number of the cultural references are obviously dated - for example, MORK AND MINDY, and when was the last time 10/11-year-old girls listened to Elton John, the Bee Gees, and the Rolling Stones? - but the lessons about not judging a person until you understand his or her life situation, and about looking past a person's attractive (or unattractive) exterior to see the person inside, still hold true. For more of Elsie, read the sequel HOW DO YOU LOSE THOSE NINTH GRADE BLUES?, which gives much more insight into Elsie's unhappy home life and frosty relationship with her mother. Also recommended is 1985's SIXTH GRADE CAN REALLY KILL YOU, which introduces a new character, Helen (who hides her own feelings of inadequacy due to her reading disability through juvenile delinquency) and brings back Jenifer, Elsie, Diane and the rest for supporting roles.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2004
I'm surprised to know that this book is still in print. I read it in the third grade and loved it. Some things never change as to how we view others making judgements of what we see on the outside. Elsie Edwards was the new student in class. Her weight made the students uncomfortable and disgusted, including Jenny. Jenny was picked to make Elsie feel welcome which she found unfair. An attack of the flu and seeing Elsie in tears made her realize that Elsie wasn't a bad person after all.

Elsie's weight problem was a result of her parents marital discord. Food was given to her for comfort. Her mother, seeing how it affected her put on a stric diet. But Elsie's mother having no patience with Elsie, decides she is better off in a boardng school. Elsie's mother was not attached emotionally to Elsie. She saw her as something standing in her way. Jenny's friendship with Elsie changed not only Jenny, but her two friends Diane and Sharon. Elsie's self-esteem also improved.

The book is a good read. As people, we make hasty judgements towards others not by listening to others and worrying what others are thinking. Rather than going by instinct, we tend to hold back and limit ourselves. Nothing's Fair shows us that friendships don't matter in size and form.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2011
This book is about Jenny and how she has to work her way through friendship problems. Such as, choosing sides and deciding to do what's right or to be with her friends. Jenny decided to do what's right and then her friends came a long with her. It does not matter what a girl looks like on the outside only on the inside.

I would say that I like this book because the writing is very clear; I could see pictures as I read the story.I could imagine what these girls are like- just like girls in my school. But it's not the best book ever, for me, because it didn't bring out really strong feelings, like; it didn't make me mad or sad in a strong way. I didn't believe fifth grade girls would really jump in the back of a truck. I think they'd be more intelligent than that. (And I'm a fifth grade girl.)

You would like this book if you are in fifth or fourth grade because you chould understand what the cahracters are going through. Especially if you like a story that's not all good- the bad things that happen make the story seem more real and exciting.

Let me just say this about the word, "fat:" The author uses the word fat because it relates to fifth grade. Fifth graders use slang and strong words. But readers will definitely be offended by the word fat. Beware that they use the word "fat" a lot in this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2006
This is one of my favorite children's books. It was the first book that depicted a hostile parent despite feeding and sheltering her children and it was the first book that depicted children's relationships as less than trustworthy. After reading this book, I wished I had the author as MY teacher. I strongly recommend this book. It's better than the sequel but the sequel is worth reading as well. I picked this up in the supermarket because of the Botero-like cover art long before I learned who Botero was. I'm very happy to see that this book is still in print as the issues dealt with in the 1981 book are even more relevant today. Elsie Edwards is given lots of processed foods in lieu of affection and her single parent family uses consumerism and empty purchases as solace. She's fat and her mother has issues.

I also have Part 2 and just got Part 3. The sequels are not as enjoyable as the Nothing's Fair but I wanted to know what happened to Elsie Edwards. She also makes a cameo appearance in I Never Asked You to Understand Me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 1998
The book I read was Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade which is about a girl named Elsie who tries to loose weight. The seting was a real place. The real place is Jenny's house and at school. The characters were believeable or like real people because some people are fat and try to loose weight just like the main character in this book. Yes, the main character was a likeable person because she helped her friend with problems so she wouldn't be sent away. I liked the story and it was exciting because in every chapter Elsie would loose weight or get in trouble. My favorite part of the story was when they took a ride in the back of a man's truck because it made you think the girl's were going to get kidnapped. The main character learned that as long as she was good enough for her mother she wouldn't be sent away. I would recommend this book for a friend because the book always has something exciting in every chapter that does not make you put the book down. If my friend likes this book he or she would also like Fourth Grade is a Jinx.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 1998
I read this book and I think it's great!!!! I think there should be more books for kids and teens, especially girls about kids and teens that are overweight because I myself have had almost 15 years experience of being overweight, I will be 15 in April and it's really painful to go through life like this and people that have always been skinny just don't understand me and other people like me, especially because I'm a teenager, people automatically assume that I should be like toothpick thin and I think that if there were more books like this, maybe a few more people would be more understanding, and I just really liked the book a lot!!! I could relate to it, probably 100 percent!!!!! I hope that in the future I will be able to go to the bookstore, and regular stores and find books on the topic of overweight and obese children and teenagers. I also think that there should be self help books for overweight, obese, and morbidly obese children and teenagers.
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