Classrooms Are Full of Struggling Students Like Albie

BookendsLynn: Early in Absolutely Almost (2014) Albie confides, “Emails from school are never about good stuff.” Sadly, for Albie, there rarely is much news from school that makes his parents or his teachers happy. In fact, his private school has just kicked him out and he is starting fifth grade in a public school, leaving his best friend behind.

“Emails from school are never
about good stuff.”

absolutelyalmost.finalIt’s not that Albie doesn’t study or try hard. He does, but he always seems to be two steps behind his classmates. His busy parents don’t know what to do and Albie’s father just thinks he needs to try harder. Albie’s mother knows he is “caring, thoughtful and good,” but Albie knows that just isn’t enough.

My whole life I’ve always been an almost.

Almost, Albie, almost.

By fourth grade I was an almost every day.

Always always almost.

The changes turn out to be not so bad. His new not-nanny Calista is cool, understanding, and also a doughnut lover like Albie.  School isn’t so bad. Albie makes a friend and likes the math club. But this school has a bully, his best friend’s family is on a reality-TV show, and Albie just can’t seem to learn more than 7 of the 10 spelling words, no matter how hard he studies. As events spiral out of control, Albie struggles to find his way.

Graff’s last book, A Tangle of Knots (2013), was very popular here and I loved that funny, twisting story. This new book is completely different but I am sure it will win another legion of fans. Albie won my heart from the start and his sweet, open voice will speak to a lot of kids for whom school is a struggle. The short chapters are ideal for Albie’s voice and reflect exactly what is on his mind. I salute Graff for not resorting to either a handy diagnosis or an easy ending. This will make a terrific classroom read-aloud and this is an ideal book to hand to fans of R. J. Palacio’s Wonder (2012).



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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