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Absolutely Almost Paperback – May 5, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Albie, an only child living in New York City, has learning difficulties. No matter how hard he tries to give the correct change to the takeout delivery guy, or get all his spelling words correct, he inevitably fails to get it right. When readers meet the fifth-grader, he's just left his fancy private school and is about to be the new kid at public school. His dad is mostly absent and forgetful, except when demanding that Albie try harder. His mom tells him that Dav Pilkey's "Captain Underpants" (Scholastic) is for babies, and gives him Esther Forbes's Johnny Tremain instead. His exacting Korean grandfather predicts that he will end up in a ditch. At school, despite some sympathetic teachers, he is bullied and teased. His only friend is Betsy, reserved and bullied herself. Things begin to change when Albie gets a new babysitter. Calista is an artist and definitely unusual: she makes a cover for Albie's Captain Underpants that says "Johnny Tremain." She takes him for donuts and to art exhibits and, most importantly, she likes him for who he is. Albie's just-believable naiveté leads him into social difficulties as he is given an opportunity to be one of the "cool" kids, even though this entails abandoning his friendship with Betsy. Despite the fact that Graff is scrupulously honest in refusing to provide a conveniently happy ending, Albie comes through significant emotional hardship to a genuine sense of self-worth. Albie himself would find this book inviting at first glance: short chapters, an accessible sans serif font, and plenty of white space, and even his mom might think it acceptable for a fifth grader.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* Albie almost understands why he is starting fifth grade at a new school. It’s got something to do with the things he can’t quite do, like subtract numbers inside his head or figure out the words in books. Fortunately, Albie also gets a kindhearted new sitter named Calista, who can turn Albie’s sadness into happiness simply through the magic of donuts. But even Calista can’t stop the mean kid at school from calling Albie names, or make Albie’s parents see how hard he tries in school. As every kid knows, some problems take more than donuts to solve. Graff (A Tangle of Knots, 2013) creates a heartfelt portrait of a child searching for nothing more than a safe place to thrive. The story is parsed into short chapters that can stand alone as mini-stories, perfect for young readers who aren’t ready to tackle full pages of text. This format is also well suited to presenting the incremental steps of Albie’s evolution from bewildered victim to hero of his own story. Beautifully written, Albie’s story is accessible and dignified, with a gentle message that will touch any reader’s heart. Middle-grade readers will love the references to Dav Pilkey’s inexhaustibly popular Captain Underpants series, which has introduced so many children to the fun side of reading. A perfect book to share with struggling readers. Grades 4-6. --Diane Colson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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One of my favorite parts is when Abby gets a baby sister who just moved to NYC and Abby and the...Read more