Monday, March 30, 2015

Absolutely Almost



Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff (for ages 8 to 12, Philomel, June 2014)

Source: my local library

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he's not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself.

Why I recommend it: Kudos to Lisa Graff for being brave enough to create a character who is ordinary. This is a quiet, thought-provoking novel (if you're looking for fast-paced action, you'll need to look elsewhere). But if you like the idea of reading about an "almost" kid, who's not the best at anything (in other words, maybe you or someone you know), this book will warm your heart. Because even though Albie isn't good at anything like math or reading or art, he's kind and compassionate. And that's good enough, right?

I've lived in New York City and the city setting is perfect for this book. I also loved Albie's math club teacher, Mr. Clifton, who starts each class with a really bad math joke. 

Bonus: Short chapters and smooth writing make this a winner for reluctant readers.

My favorite quote: "Then won't you be glad you found something you love?"

(This comes after Calista tells Albie to find something he wants to keep doing, and maybe if he practices enough, one day he'll discover he doesn't stink at it. Albie responds that he might still stink at it.)


Lisa Graff's website

Follow Lisa on Twitter

18 comments:

  1. I liked this one, too. Such a change from the overactive nature of most MG books. It is a hard sell for reluctant readers as they want more action. Great read-aloud though.

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    1. Good point about the action, Greg. And I agree, this would make a terrific read-aloud.

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  2. I agree-awesome that the character is ordinary like the rest of us--and learns to appreciate his talents.

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    1. She did such a fantastic job of making an ordinary kid likeable and compelling (at least, for me!).

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  3. Ordinary people make awfully good subjects for books. Thanks for telling me about this one. I will check it out.

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    1. But they seem to be rare subjects, Rosi.

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  4. Yay for a book about an ordinary person! I think a lot of kids will relate to this, and how refreshing when it seems like having a special talent or power is a prerequisite for being a middle grade protagonist. I got to hear Lisa speak several years ago at a SCBWI conference when she was still an editor. She was very inspiring.

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    1. That's great, Jenni. I heard her speak at an SCBWI conference when she was an editor, too.

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  5. I recently finished this one and also liked the fact that it was about an ordinary boy, living a very ordinary life. He makes mistakes and is trying to figure out math and reading- but at least he knows he loves doughnuts. :) I really liked Albie's relationship with Calista because I think she did a lot of good for him and was just what he needed at certain times. Great review!
    ~Jess

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  6. Ooooh looks interesting! Can't wait to pass it on to the middle-graders in my life.

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  7. I know kids who think that if you're not a brilliant scientist by age ten or able to quote 200 digits of pi by age eight, there's something wrong with you...and feel bad about themselves as a result. How refreshing to have a book that addresses exactly that! I'm adding it to my (towering) shelf!

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    1. Sad but true, Suzanne. Kids need to play and daydream and just be kids, and not worry about their careers.

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  8. Loved this book (and all of Lisa Graff's books)!

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    1. I haven't read all of hers but I did enjoy Umbrella Summer.

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  9. Sounds like this one's a winner! "Ordinary" kids are much more evident in contemporary, realistic fiction. I'm thinking of kids like Poppy Parker in Dianna Winget's A Million Ways Home, or Grace in The Secret Hum of a Daisy. In fantasy, you've pretty much got to have something "special" about you.

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    1. I haven't read A Million Ways Home but I really loved The Secret Hum of a Daisy. You're right though, Michael, that realistic contemporary is a good place to find "ordinary" kids.

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