Being the “new kid” in the middle of a school year means all sorts of new experiences for 8-year-old Carson Blum.
When his tax-lawyer father takes a new position in El Cerrito, Calif., Carson packs up his stuffed mammal, Moose, and his ditzy Labrador retriever, Genevieve, and waves a reluctant goodbye to his grandparents, his two best friends and his small private school in Pasadena. Public school is quite different, but his teacher, Mr. Lipman, and Carson’s new classmates make him feel welcome. Carson’s just not sure he’ll have a new friend by his birthday to invite horseback riding. He’s also not sure what to make of his classmate Weston Walker, who gets in trouble a lot and seems to tell a lot of whoppers. Carson likes Nancy, who helps him in computer class. He’s also excited to help Patrick take care of Mr. Nibblenose, the class rat. In her newest, Newbery Honor author Jukes (Like Jake and Me, 1984) depicts a warmly affectionate relationship between Carson and his adoptive father. They’re best friends and have in-jokes and no disagreements. Carson’s emotional life is expertly drawn, and readers who’ve found themselves in approximations of his situation will easily identify. However, the length, abundance of complex sentences and slowish pacing make this problematic for early-elementary children, who are most likely to be interested in a novel starring an 8-year-old.
Quiet humor with dashes of goofiness may offset its problems, but Carson’s tale will still work better as a read-aloud than as an independent read. (Fiction. 7-10)