Friday, August 12, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 Gertie's Leap to Greatness


Fans of realistic fiction for middle grade readers have a new protagonist to admire. Gertie Reece Foy is a girl that one should never underestimate. When she decides to do something really impressive to prove that she does not need her mother (who is getting remarried and moving out of town), she doesn't let anything stand in the way of her mission. Not broken pencils, stolen homework, band-aids in her lunch, a child-star actress, or even the danger of losing one of her best friends can stop her. The opening scene of Gertie resuscitating a half-dead frog with a turkey baster is a perfect example of her imagination and persistence. As she bulldozes ahead from one attempt to achieve greatness to another, she maintains her determination to prove that she is the greatest fifth grader in the world.

An inevitable comparison for this type of female character is to Junie B. Jones. If Junie B. were a fifth grader and had grown up without a mother, she might have turned out like Gertie. The zany ideas and the seemingly endless energy are very similar. They also have the same sort of tomboyish approach to life. But Gertie is a bit more worldly and understands things like how environmental lobbyists might cause her father to lose his job if they manage to shut down the oil rigs. Of course, she also imagines that the family will be homeless and hungry, immediately jumping to a worst-case scenario. 

The writing sweeps you right into Gertie's life and makes it all seem very real. When she hides behind a bush to spy on some classmates, you feel as if you are right there and nervous that you are going to be caught. The moods and thoughts are so well described that Gertie seems to be someone you know in real life. Although there are many setbacks on the way to completing her mission, the book also has many moments of humor. (Remember the resuscitated frog?) Her audition for the school play is hilarious, and the scene with the Swiss chocolates will have you laughing (I can't say more without spoiling it). The author has done an excellent job of making the characters and setting believable.

Teachers looking for a new title to use as a class novel study might want to consider Gertie and her story. There is plenty of appeal for boys and girls, and ample topics to discuss. Readers who enjoy school stories, realistic fiction, and spunky heroines should give it a try.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

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