One-Third Nerd by Gennifer Choldenko, illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans (9781524718886)
Released January 29, 2019.
The award-winning author of the Al Capone series returns with a book for younger children. Liam is a fifth grader whose life has gotten complicated. He lives with his mother and two younger sisters in a basement apartment near San Francisco. Fifth grade isn’t the same as younger grades and Liam is concerned with appearing to not be as poor as his family actually is. Even worse, their dog, Cupcake, has started having a peeing problem and they don’t have the money to get her special tests done. Meanwhile, Dakota, one of Liam’s sisters is trying to make enough money to save Cupcake, since if she doesn’t stop peeing on things they will need to get rid of her. Unfortunately, it involves selling some of Liam’s favorite things and conducting some wild science experiments. Then you have the youngest in the family, Izzy a child with Down syndrome, who makes friends easily and gives great hugs. Can this family of nerds, jocks and friendliness come together and save Cupcake?
The writing here is just right for younger readers who will love the brisk pace mixed with with madcap humor. Liam is a strong protagonist who is starting to become more aware of social standing and how others perceive him, and being a big brother to the disruptive Dakota is not helping matters. Even when he is exasperated with his sister though, he tends to be calm and show a great deal of maturity in each situation.
I love that this book is not focused on big issues. There are several that could have been the focus in a more dramatic book, such as poverty, Down syndrome, and divorce. Instead Choldenko tells the story of a family facing a variety of challenges and weathering them together, several of the obvious challenges actually turn out to be strengths along the way. The light tone is also conveyed in the illustrations with their light touch and humorous takes on the scenes.
This funny wild romp will be enjoyed by elementary readers. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from e-galley provided by Wendy Lamb Books.