A 10-year-old wannabe paleontologist finds his life transformed after unearthing a buried message.
Finch loves dinosaurs and digging for fossils. Unable to “settle down” the way adults would like him to, Finch has received “special services” in school since first grade but resents needing “extra help.” A bouncy ball seat arranged by his fifth-grade teacher provides a partial outlet for his fidgety energy, enabling him to manage without “extra help.” When Finch digs up a piece of paper containing the single word “Help” in the school garden, he has an opportunity to become the kid giving help instead of the kid getting it. He doggedly embarks on a solo mission to discover who buried the note, eventually including others in his quest by identifying classmates with problems and surreptitiously encouraging kids to help one another. However, Finch spends so much time helping others he jeopardizes completing fifth grade and attending the class trip to Dinosaur State Park unless he’s willing to accept some help. Told in the third person, Finch’s metamorphosis from a supercharged kid obsessed with digging and dinosaurs to a focused “helper-kid” proves challenging and convincing. Savvy special-service providers, supportive parents, and diverse classmates (Finch is white) add depth. A playful flip-art cartoon feature reinforces the dinosaur theme.
An amusing, empowering tale that should appeal especially to middle schoolers with abundant energy. (Fiction. 8-12)