Austin is changing schools again. This time it’s June and nearing the end of his 4th grade year. Seems like it would have been better to finish out the term at his previous school but Mom never has them staying in one place very long.
He’ll just stay quiet and hope no one finds out that he can’t read. All the words on a page look like ants. Keeping his cover is not easy, especially with a nice teacher (Ms. G) and a classmate named Bertie who insists on being his friend.
They both want to be chosen for next year’s Safety Squad. The special honor chooses those who are best at monitoring the hallways during the day and the sidewalks before and after school. Plus they get to wear a very cool laser lemon vest. It’s a great goal, but Austin soon finds out there’s a reading and writing test he has to take to qualify Not only that but Mom is often shut up in her room or at work and won’t sign the permission slip.
The plot stays away from revealing what has been the cause of this family’s constant moving, nor are there any details about the Mom’s situation. She does show signs of being a loving parent and is there for Austin when needed. I’m hoping a sequel (or prequel) might be in the works to dive deeper into the family’s past.
Austin’s first person narration is insightful and spot on. The book itself is only 133 pages of text and would make a perfect read for those kids diving into middle grade books for the first time. The size of some recent MG books often reach an intimidating 300-400 pages.
A well done look at the common struggle of a reading disability.
BOOK BIRTHDAY: November 9, 2021
FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT: STUCK by Jennifer Swender
- Bertie is the type of friend everyone should have. She’s quirky and talkative, but always brings a positive presence to every encounter.
- Teachers will get a few tips on how to conduct a class. Mrs. G’s starter for the day and a math game she has her students play are real keepers for the planning book.
- One of my favorites, Bridge to Terabithia, is the book Austin pretends to read. He does find help understanding through an audio recording of the story, helping him make comparisons between he and Bertie and the two kids in the book.
- Each chapter is titled with colors like Pacific Blue; Outrageous Orange for chapter 2. It’s a small hint as to what’s ahead for Austin. Very different approach but it works.
- Quiet kids like Austin rarely get main character status. He’s a welcome addition for others like him to see themselves in a different light.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Swender was a classroom teacher for many years before turning to writing full-time. Her debut middle grade novel Solving for M is winner of the 2020 Mathical Book Prize, as well as a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection and finalist for the Land of Enchantment Book Award, the Georgia Children’s Book Award and the William Allen White Children’s Book Award. Together with Paul DuBois Jacobs, she is also the author of many picture books and early chapter books. When she’s not writing, Jennifer develops curriculum materials for students and teachers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.
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