Sunday, October 28, 2007

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period
by Gennifer Choldenko

Published in 2007. 217 pages.

First paragraph: This is lame but I'm actually looking forward to school this year, because every day this summer was like crap: dog crap, cat crap - I even had a few elephant crap days. Trust me, it was bad.

Why I read this book: I heard about this book in September from a monthly email I receive from my county library system about new books arriving at the library. (I subscribe to the Best Selling Fiction, Mystery Books, Children's Books, and Teen Books lists.) The title intrigued me, and after reading the description and reviews, I put a "hold" on the book so I could read it. Shortly thereafter I was creating my list for Falling Into Reading 2007 and included this book.

This is the review I read from Publisher's Weekly:

The latest from Newbery Honor author Choldenko is an earnest contemporary story about race, set in a California middle school. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Kirsten, the overweight daughter of a doctor, and Walk (short for Walker), son of a striving single mother, the issues raised are spot-on for this age group. Kirsten's world, micromanaged by her overly involved mother, is battered by her parents' fighting and her best friend Rory's newfound chumminess with queen bee Brianna. Walk has been separated from his friends by his mother's decision to send him to private school on scholarship. One of only three African-American students at Mountain School, his outsider status makes him approachable to Kirsten, whose falling-out with Rory leaves her in dire need of lunch-hour companionship. This under-the-microscope examination of the often cruel, always dramatic dynamics of junior high will be enough to pull many readers through to the provocative if melodramatic revelation about the real connection between Walk and Kirsten. The humor that fueled much of Choldenko's Al Capone Does My Shirts is missing here, and her choice to tell Kirsten's story in first person and Walk's chapters in third person makes the narrative a little choppy. But the questions she raises about identity, race, prejudice and the true nature of friendship should provide ample food for thought. Ages 10-up.

What I thought about this book: I truly loved this book! In need of something easy to read but compelling, I started If a Tree Falls the day after the 24-Hour Read-a-Thon. I wish I'd read it during the read-a-thon; I might have made it without falling asleep!

Who should read this book: The publisher marked this book at "ages 9-12" and Publisher's Weekly said "ages 10-up", but my library put it in the YA section. Based on the content, I think that I concur with that classification. I recommended it to my sixth-grade daughter who will be twelve in January, but I don't think I'd recommend it for younger children. I will also recommend it for adults who enjoy young adult stories, particularly about the experiences of outsiders and nonconformists.



  1. I've seen this book and was intrigued by the title, I'll be adding it to my list now.
    Thanks for the review

  2. What a great title for the Falling Into Reading Challenge. I love the title and the cover. I always like getting YA recommendations. Thanks, Alison.

    Hey, did you go to the Book Festival at the downtown library?

  3. Thanks, Alison! Haven't heard of this one till now, but it sounds like a good one.

  4. Sounds good. I'm going to add it to my wishlist.