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“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
Summary: The best thing about second grade - at least for Carolyn - is Frederick, the guinea pig. When students finished their work, they could play with him. That wasn't a problem until Mrs. Thompson wanted everyone to practice their cursive writing. No matter how hard she tried, Carolyn's papers were a mess ... and Stacey Coolidge finished before everyone and had perfect papers every time! Carolyn even had her mom drop her off at school early one day so she could get a head start and finally play with Frederick. She got so frustrated that day she put a hole in her paper. It was no use. When Mrs. Thompson asked her to stay after school, Carolyn was worried. She told Mrs. Thompson about her frustration, and Mrs. Thompson reminded her that some of the most talented poets and writers couldn't write cursive well, either. She encouraged Carolyn to focus on her great imagination, not the slants and curves. Then Carolyn had the biggest surprise yet: she would get to keep Frederick for the weekend. This picture book story helps kids understand their frustrations and look at things with a different perspective.
Type of Reading: family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 5 to 9; read yourself: 9 to 12
Interest Level: 6 to 9
Reading Level: 6.1
Age of Child: Read with a nearly 8-year-old girl.
Young Reader Reaction: Our daughter related to this book on several levels and saw some of herself in Carolyn. She is an animal lover and she'll drop everything to play with an animal. Last year, the class guinea pig was right next to her desk (just like the book). She has had a hard time perfecting her printing (just as Carolyn struggles with cursive). She liked exploring the illustrations, commenting on what Frederick was doing or where he was. She loved the poster "Where the Fun Things Are," and some of the other famous books with new names.
Adult Reader Reaction: Although the book is about cursive writing, kids who are learning to print will relate to the book, too. All of Carolyn's emotions are realistic and the illustrations convey her feelings - but with a lighthearted touch. They also convey a message to teachers about how they praise students. Carolyn's reaction to seeing her "poor" work on the Handwriting Stars bulletin board is important, and one that teachers may not think about.
Pros: Elementary students of all ages will recognize themselves in Carolyn and her struggle to do well. Parents and teachers are quietly reminded about how their actions can influence a child's perspective, too.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow or buy. This could go either way. If you have a young child who struggles with basic skill-building, this could comfort him/her. The ending may not be relevant, but they will find a kindred spirit in Carolyn.
Educational Themes: This is a great selection for one-on-one reading or classroom discussions. Every student struggles with something, and they will understand Carolyn's feelings. In a classroom, there are opportunities to engage kids in helping each other. This is a good book to read in conjunction with Last to Finish, with a key distinction that there is no bully in this story.
Notes: The Reading Tub® picked up this book at Book Expo America 2009.
Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, school
Date(s) Reviewed: August 2009
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