By Cecilia Cackley
DESCRIPTION (from Goodreads): Zack Delacruz is unnoticed at his middle school—and that’s just the way he likes it. But a school assembly, a typhoon of spit, and an uncharacteristic moment of bravery are all it takes to change everything. Suddenly Zack is in charge of the class fundraiser. Worse, his partner is the school’s biggest bully! If they don’t sell all the chocolate bars, there will be no dance for the sixth grade. Zack never wanted to be a hero, but with his classmates’ hopes on the line, can he save the day? Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth releases August 14, 2015.
MY TWO CENTS: This is a light, fun read for kids who are curious about middle school and looking for something along the same lines as Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but without pictures. Zack is your typical “don’t bother me, I’m invisible” kid until a chain of events has him organizing a class fundraiser and trying to solve all the problems that come with it. The bullying part of the story is actually pretty minimal and the side characters fit easily into stock school types, nicknames and all. The supportive adults in the story (particularly Zack’s dad) smooth the way when necessary, but the fun part of the book is the building of cooperation between Zack and his classmates and watching him tackle every new disaster that hits.
TEACHING TIPS: This is probably best for elementary readers and could make a nice classroom read aloud. It could also work as a literature circle book, with discussions about the choices characters make and how their perceptions of each other change over the course of the book. There are math connections to be made with the fundraiser aspect and plenty of kids will see themselves reflected in Zack and his challenges.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeff Anderson has been sharing writing strategies with teachers and students for over 25 years. Whether presenting at national conferences like NCTE, ASCD, or in classrooms or writing his books for teachers or middle grade readers, Jeff’s passion for writing and grammar inspires teachers and young writers to soar. When he’s not writing with his “revising” dogs at home near downtown San Antonio, Texas, he’s walking, talking, or doing staff development around the US (and sometimes New Zealand).
An interview with Jeff Anderson: http://readingyear.blogspot.com/2015/03/an-interview-with-jeff-anderson-about.html
A blog post on the process of writing the book: http://pawlpblog.org/2015/06/03/guest-post-how-i-became-a-middle-grade-author-its-not-a-lone-pursuit-with-jeff-anderson/
Cecilia Cackley is a performing artist and children’s bookseller based in Washington DC where she creates puppet theater for adults and teaches playwriting and creative drama to children. Her bilingual children’s plays have been produced by GALA Hispanic Theatre and her interests in bilingual education, literacy, and immigrant advocacy all tend to find their way into her theatrical work. You can find more of her work at www.witsendpuppets.com.