A spunky young character takes a complicated path to find her place in school, but she stumbles along the way. Unfortunately, so does the author.
With her debut effort, Ross brings readers Chrysanthemum, better known as Bean. It’s the start of the school year, and Bean can’t wait to see her best friend Carla and get third grade started. But almost immediately, Bean discovers that nothing is as she’d imagined. Most significantly, Carla no longer wants to be friends. The story conveys Bean’s struggle to find her place in her family with sisters Rose and Gardenia and at school, facing down the class’s biggest bully, Tanisha. It’s obvious that Ross cares about her character and her struggles. But the book moves slowly, and at 197 pages it feels much too long for kids Bean's age. Those children comfortable with length and reading level may well not be interested in reading about a third-grader. Inconsistent language is jarring, making Bean feel like a girl anywhere from 6 to 16. Not to mention, Bean’s epiphany will leave kids with wrinkled foreheads, asking, “Huh?”
In the end, the book fails to deliver a story that stands out or characters who stand apart. (Fiction. 8-12)