Third grader Trevor Lee makes every effort to avoid revealing that he still can’t read.
Educator Blevins directly addresses the shame of reading difficulties in this middle-grade novel. Trevor Lee is “as good at reading as a fish is good at climbing a cactus,” but his teacher, Miss Burger, wants every child to read aloud at the upcoming Parents’ Night. To help readers understand the challenge Trevor Lee faces, the author includes the story they’ll perform: “The Little Red Hen and Her Lazy-Butt Friends.” The humor of the narrative extends beyond the many references to body parts: Trevor Lee’s fear of reading in public is matched by his fear of the wrath of his farming family’s rooster. Both lead him to ridiculous actions. Further, his best friend, Pinky, is always at hand to add more trouble—as when they fail to follow field-trip rules and end up stuck in a tree. Happily, some extra instruction from the teacher and the support of his parents and nonreading Mamaw help him rise to the big occasion. Each short chapter is illustrated with grayscale drawings, often a head shot of the freckle-faced white boy, and ends with a comment in Trevor Lee’s own words: “Some days lay a big rotten egg.” His folksy language reflects his rural Tennessee origins, but his repeated expressions of distaste for girls limit the book’s appeal. Pinky is depicted as a child of color, Miss Burger presents white, and his classmates are diverse.
This sympathetic portrayal of a boy struggling with school has an audience. (Fiction. 6-8)