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SPARKS by Graham McNamee

SPARKS

By Graham McNamee

Age Range: 8 - 11

Pub Date: Aug. 13th, 2002
ISBN: 0-385-72977-4
Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Todd Foster’s fifth-grade classmates call him a range of insulting nicknames from Gump (after Forrest Gump) to Retardo. Todd discovers that being promoted from the Special Needs classroom, where he was the smart kid, to the regular fifth-grade classroom has drawbacks. In addition to the humiliating name-calling and the difficult subject matter that Todd struggles to master, there is the issue of his best friend Eva from Special Needs. Now that he is in the big leagues, can Todd afford to be seen with the sometimes overly exuberant Eva in her rose-colored glasses? Although prone to wistfulness about the kinder, gentler Special Needs classroom, Todd is determined to make it in the regular fifth grade. When Todd’s imaginative history paper earns him a grade of B, his best grade ever, he realizes that Eva is the one he wants to share the good news with and decides to make amends for having spent the first two months of school avoiding her. Good-natured Todd faces his limitations with equanimity and humor, but not without a certain amount of frustration, as when he reacts to his teacher giving him four weeks to bring his grades up with the comment, “I’ve spent my whole life being an idiot. What can I do in four weeks?” McNamee (Nothing Wrong with a Three-Legged Dog, 2000, etc.) succeeds in making Todd an endearing and believable character. This sweet story sparkles with wit and warmth. (Fiction. 8-11)