Sunday, December 16, 2007

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period

The first of three books I originally freed from the cataloging cart right before Thanksgiving, If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, by Gennifer Choldenko has traveled straight from the cart, to my office, to lunch, home, back to the cart for cataloging, to the circulation desk (officially checked out to me), and finally back to my home office. It has been sitting in Blogger draft format for several days patiently awaiting completion, only to be superceded by diatribes on journal articles, library statistics, resumes, vitaes, movies, and snow.

Kirsten McKenna and Walker Jones are returning to school after summer vacation. For Kirsten, it is a time of relief because summer was stressful, her parents have fought the entire time and her best friend was away at camp. Kirsten's only friend was her younger sister. Walker is returning to school as well, but he is a new student; a young African American in a prestigious white school. Resigned to making the best of the situation to please his mother, Walk is reserving judgment concerning the school and it's inhabitants. It does not take long for either student to realize things are going to be radically different this year. Told in dual voice, Kirsten and Walk each have their own chapter and point of view, the unlikely duo bond as friends before learning how close their lives intertwine beyond the confines of school.

Choldenko, also the author of Newbery Honor book Al Capone Does my Shirts, again provides a glimpse into the messy life of teenagers. Her characters are well developed, flawed as humans should be, and must deal with inevitable complications of life; parents and children included. Kirsten is fighting weight gain, a coping mechanism for her parents consistent fighting and low self-esteem. Walk is dealing with his single mother's fear for her child and subtle issues of race in school. Foreshadowing is subtle, but readers will not be overly surprised when the secret kept by Kirsten and Walk's parents for thirteen years is exposed by an unlikely source and the repercussions reverberate throughout both lives and school. How the character's move forward is realistic and rewarding.

Choldenko's web site is both teacher and reader friendly, there is a If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, Teacher questions section particularly useful for classroom discussion.

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