When Ms. Patel gives Class 2B homework, second-grader Elizabeth Case is over the moon. That is, until she learns that she has to make a poster with her name. Not only does she have a long name with lots of letters, "E" comes after "A," which means Anna the Show-off goes first. Again. Elizabeth is tired of alphabetical order and always being stuck between Dan and Fiona! Uh, oh! Elizabeth forgot to tell her parents about her project. Now it's Thursday and her project is due tomorrow. Just one night left to make her poster and "hex" it for Anna. She finished her project, but now Elizabeth is having second thoughts. She's not very proud of it, but she still has to present it to the class. What will she do?
Elizabeth is a realistic second-grader in her view of school, her stream-of-consciousness thinking and how she takes things literally. Her enthusiasm for having her first homework was sweet. That her dad went running out the night before a project to buy her supplies? Not so much. Realistic for a procrastinator, but it didn't fit Elizabeth's personality. If she was so excited about homework, being like her older brother, and constantly talking about it to the reader, wouldn't she have blabbed about it with her family right away?
While I appreciate the author's intent when Elizabeth "misinterprets" common idioms and clichés, I did not like how it was done. On the playground, Anna recites the very common "sticks and stones will break my bones ..." When Ms. Patel assigns the name poster, Elizabeth decides to make her name out of sticks and stones, with the thought that they will break Anna's bones. Yes, it is a misinterpretation, but the realism did not sit well with me. She is actively planning to hurt a classmate. Combine that with purposefully holding back her intent from her parents is, essentially, premeditation. Yes, Elizabeth ultimately has a change of heart, but she never tells the truth. Instead, when it is her turn to present, she comes up with a spontaneous idea that hers is a protest poster. There is nothing in the story up to this point (Chapter 41) that has anything related to a protest or Elizabeth's knowledge of the concept.
Lots of dialogue helps create a fast pace for this story of a second-grader and her first homework assignment. Readers who like "literal humor" will also enjoy Elizabeth's efforts to understand where "Kingdom Come"is and her interpretation of the "sticks and stones" song.
Although unreasonable, Elizabeth plans for her homework assignment to bring harm to a classmate. A lot of the story is built around creating this poster. She purposefully withholds information from her parents because of her intent, and later in the story, lies about what her poster is intended to show. A character modeling these behaviors may make some adults uncomfortable.
Lots of dialogue creates the story of a second-grader who is excited about homework!
Elizabeth is the narrator and primary character, so most of the discussion focuses around her. Ask young readers ...
- Would you be Elizabeth's friend. Why or why not?
- Are there other ways that Elizabeth could have expressed her frustration about alphabetical order?
- Do you think Elizabeth planned all along to make her poster a "protest sign"?
The story also creates a great opportunity to talk about figurative and literal use of words. The idioms/clichés can get you started.
9 and Up
7 to 10