From School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-On the first day of fifth grade, two new kids walk into Sylvan's class and he thinks that they are both weird. Charity, having just returned from several years in Kenya, earns the nickname Preacher Girl for her religious upbringing and odd questions. Brian, known as the Trampoline Kid, behaves strangely, often making loud noises and constantly fidgeting. Sylvan, who beat up a fellow classmate last term, wants nothing more than to be considered normal. His mother, a social activist, doesn't make it easy for him, making him join her causes and picket lines. Then he's forced to socialize with Charity when their mothers become friends, and his teacher, Mr. In, pairs him with Brian for a social-studies class project. Intrigued by Charity's vibrant and complex past and youthful enough to want to join Brian on his trampoline, Sylvan empathizes and matures alongside these two different but good classmates. When the children think that their beloved teacher's position is in jeopardy, they bring their classmates together in an effort to save it. Sylvan and Charity take turns narrating, and readers will understand and relate to the social pressure they struggle to navigate and their desire to fit in.-Nicole Politi, The Ocean County Library, Lavallette, NJα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Fifth-grader Sylvan is a self-described normal kid, while his classmate Charity has just arrived at school after five years of living in Kenya, where her parents were missionaries. Also new at school is a boy who exhibits Asperger’s symptoms, which inhibit his interpersonal interactions. Told in the voices of Sylvan and Charity, this novel offers a well-balanced look at two kids who are realizing how events affect individuals—and how they themselves are affected deeply by events they want to ignore. Without ever feeling overstretched, the story packs in a lot about what it’s like to have an activist mom or an embittered former-preacher dad; how an excellent teacher can still lose students; and the dramatic impact that’s possible when a bunch of 10-year-olds put the group’s interests ahead of their own personal concerns. Fans of school stories by Gary Schmidt or Jerry Spinelli will find this engaging as well as thought provoking. Grades 5-7. --Francisca Goldsmith