A buddy bench brings three disparate kids together.
April Boxler is observant and helpful, but she doesn’t consider herself to be very social. When she has a falling-out with her only friend on the first day of sixth grade at Marshallville Elementary School, April chooses to be a buddy bench volunteer primarily to avoid her classmates. On her second day as volunteer, April spots Joey Byrd, a fourth grader who lies so still on the woodchip playground that he looks like he might be dead. Joey also walks in circles, lies down in the middle of things, and spends all recess alone. When April expresses her concerns about Joey, both her mother and the school counselor are dismissive. As the weeks proceed, April and her buddy bench co-volunteer, fifth grader Parveena—“Veena” for short—come to realize (with the help of the school janitor, Mr. Ulysses) that Joey is in fact making art on the playground. Pearsall’s characters are authentic and well rounded; the story is largely narrated by April in the first person, although the sections titled “JOEYBIRD,” which are accompanied by Jin’s pencil illustrations, give readers a glimpse into Joey’s mind. Almost all the characters, with the exception of Veena, who is from India, seem to be white.
An uplifting story of friendship, kindness, and new ways of seeing. (Fiction. 8-12)