Making up his mind has always been hard for Monty to do, but when the principal tags him with the label “waffler,” it becomes a nickname the fourth grader desperately wants to lose.
Monty’s unwillingness to call attention to himself will resonate with readers. He knows that objecting to the hated nickname will make it stick, and he fears that if his mother calls the teacher about the Band-Aid “decision-aids” he has to wear, the teacher will be angry. The adults in Monty’s school seem competent but insensitive. When the fourth graders are assigned kindergarten Reading Buddies, three kindergartners are left out, and suddenly, Monty is reading to four of them at recess. Monty’s family life is as complicated as his school life: two parents, two stepparents, two half sisters and two houses. He and his decisive twin sister move back and forth week by week. Because he takes so long to make them, many of Monty’s choices seem desperate, but at least one works out: A pet rat’s long name, a combination of all the names he had been considering, gives him an idea for solving his Reading Buddy problem. Donovan’s third-person narration convincingly captures the interior monologue of a boy who likes to consider the alternatives, and her school and home settings ring true.
A solid middle-grade choice—no waffling necessary. (Fiction. 7-10)