Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis.
This is one that has been getting a lot of buzz, and deservedly so!
Emma-Jean does not fit in with the other seventh graders in her school. She observes them from afar, but doesn’t concern herself much with what they think or do. But when Colleen tearfully asks Emma-Jean for help, Emma-Jean is drawn to help her devising a scheme that solves the problem. But the solution isn’t quite as elegant as Emma-Jean thinks, and Colleen is dismayed when she finds out what Emma-Jean has done. Nevertheless, this doesn’t deter Emma-Jean from continuing to help another classmate out as well as looking for a wife for a graduate student who lives with her and her mother.
This is a wonderful book with a protagonist who is able to be both tough and withdrawn as well as immediate and fragile. Emma-Jean is one of the most well-conceived and well-drawn characters in recent memory. I particularly enjoyed that we encounter Emma-Jean several years after her father has died. We don’t witness the death, but rather come into the story as it is already in progress, which is a winning way to do this. I also appreciated that even though Emma-Jean does some transforming by the end of the story, she remains quirky, strange and definitely unique. Just like her beloved father.
Highly recommended for tweens, this book will please both late elementary readers and middle school readers. It is one that teachers of those grades will want to look at for a readaloud in their classrooms. But it is also such a personal story that it is perfection for a tween to curl up with and read in a single sitting.