Title: “Because of the Rabbit”
Author: Cynthia Lord
The Plot In 5 Sentences Or Less: Emma is going into 5th grade and she has decided that she no longer wants to be homeschooled. On the night before her first day at public school, her father the game warden brings home a rabbit that was stuck in a neighbor’s fence. Over the following days, Emma learns how to care for the rabbit and also that making friends in 5th grade is a more difficult task than she imagined. When a school project requires teaming up with some classmates, Emma learns the meaning of true friendship.
My Take: This was a straightforward story about friendship and learning the many social pitfalls of 5th grade. In its tone and content, it really reminded me of The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes. There are no bad guys in this story, so Lord sidesteps many of the bully and mean girl tropes that populate most younger and middle grade chapter books. I also appreciated the character of Jack who suffers from ADHD and is quirky and sweet natured. All told, readers looking for a realistic fiction book for 3rd and 4th graders will be well pleased with this choice.
One Interesting Note About The Author: One of Cynthia Lord’s inspirations for this story was her experience with rabbits. She has 3 pet bunnies and has also fostered twenty-six of them in the last few years!
Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm continue the amusing tone set in their Babymouse graphic novels with their new series Squish. Last week I read the first two installments to my 5 year old daughter.
Plot: Squish is a young amoeba who lives in a pond floating with other microorganisms including paramecium and planaria. But life in the pond is not easy and Squish is plagued with troubles familiar to any human child in elementary school. In the first book, Squish must face down the school bully Lynnwood, also an amoeba, who wants to eat his obnoxiously ebullient friend Peggy, a paramecium. In the second book, Squish is starting a new school year and finds that he has made it into the cool crowd with the Algae, the “coolest microorganisms in the pond.” But Squish soon finds out that being with the popular kids comes with a price that is too high for him to pay.
Personal Reaction: These are fun, clever reads. I love the artifice of using the microscopic world of a pond as an allegory for the trials of elementary school. Lynnwood is the scariest amoeba in school because he readily, and quite literally, eats and digests other microorganisms. The Algae are the coolest kids because they produce oxygen. As an adult, I found it entertaining to reconsider the life of an amoeba, something that I had not thought about since 9th grade biology class. Kids will enjoy the comic book spoof humor and the problems that relate to this age group.
Themes: following your conscience, bullying, standing up for your friends, father-son relationship, the effects of the inner life of the mind on the outer world, fitting in with social groups, the shifting nature of friendships under pressure.
Squish: Super Amoeba 94 pages 2011 Random House; Squish: Brave New Pond 90 pages, 2011 Random House.