Following series opener A Whole New Ballgame (2015), this second installment of the Rip and Red series finds the eponymous fifth-graders feeling pretty good about the year…until a new girl turns their world upside down.
A diverse cast of characters highlights this good-natured, high-spirited slice of life at Reese Jones Elementary School. Narrator Mason Irving, nicknamed Rip, is an African-American student whose mother is a principal at another school. Blake Daniels, nicknamed Red for his hair, is on the autism spectrum, Avery is in a wheelchair, and their new teacher, Mr. Acevedo, has family in the Dominican Republic. Mr. Acevedo’s class is a student’s dream—lots of breaks in the school day, few tests, and not much in the way of worksheets. Enter Takara Eid, called Tiki by her friends, with an Egyptian father and a forceful presence. Tiki turns out to be quite the basketball player, and she leads a protest against the terrible food in the cafeteria. Her aggressive personality forces everyone to rethink their places in the elementary school universe, and everyone is changed. Even Red makes satisfying emotional progress and becomes something of a hero in the end. Bildner, a former teacher, casts an affectionate eye on school life and creates likable characters in realistic school situations, managing to make characters unique within their school group.
An engaging, feel-good novel about elementary school life. (Fiction. 8-12)