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“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Summary: Jenna, a third grader, is learning a lot about life. Mrs. Morton has divided everyone into teams for a social studies project, and Jenna is shocked when one of her classmates starts bullying others. She is also excited - and more than a little nervous - about moving up to the 10-and-under softball league. Does she really have what it takes to fit in with her team? This illustrated chapter book blends sports, class projects, and growing up in a story for preteen girls.
Type of Reading: family reading, independent reading, illustrated chapter
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 10; read yourself: 9 to 12
Interest Level: 9 to 12
Reading Level: 4.5
Age of Child: Read by a 10-year-old girl. She participated in a youth ministry project at Effort Baptist Church helping our Use Your ABCs project.
Young Reader Reaction: When I first started reading this book I didn't know what to think. The more I got into it, the more I liked it. I liked Jenna's personality. She makes different kinds of mistakes and that is cool, because in most books the girls are perfect.
Adult Reader Reaction: Although Jenna is the main character, there are several other girls who are important to the plot: Justice, Lorelei, Phoebe, and Tiffany. In telling the story, the author relates events about them, but they don't engage with Jenna directly. There are some great lessons about friendship, respect, vanity, cheating, and acceptance, but Jenna just observes and thinks about what's happening. Other people do something. There are good lessons, but Jenna is a weak character.
Pros: Elementary-aged girls will see themselves and their classmates in this story filled with events they face every day.
Cons: The plot alternates chapter to chapter between two scenes: school and softball. They don't overlap and the leaps don't give the author much room to develop the characters with any depth.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. This is a book that has some valuable lessons for pre-teen girls who are beginning to struggle with how to fit in.
Educational Themes: In the classroom and on the team, the author offers examples of style v. substance. With Lorelei, she also opens the door to talk about bullying. Given the way the author presented the story, there are opportunities to isolate events to talk about "what would you do?" It might also be fun to compare sportsmanship and teamwork between school and softball.
Notes: The author donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - sports, middle grade series, baseball, friendship, coming of age