Thursday, January 24, 2008

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

Tarshis, Lauren. 2007. EMMA-JEAN LAZARUS FELL OUT OF A TREE. Ill. by Kristin Smith. New York: Penguin. ISBN 9780803731646 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

Emma-Jean’s quirkiness is observed early on. The first page explains her awareness of middle school criers and that “…Emma-Jean had no intention in participating in such a barbaric and unhygienic activity.” When she is taunted by classmates about being “strange,” she and her mom look it up and find the second definition to be “extraordinary, remarkable, singular.” They agree this is an accurate description of Emma-Jean, and furthermore, a compliment.

Even though Emma-Jean is an outsider, she is a keen observer. When Colleen is crying in the bathroom, Emma-Jean knows this is not her style and something must be wrong. In her logical, mathematical way, she sets out to solve the problem, even though the straightforward path includes forgery and deception. Through the process and fallout, both Emma-Jean and Colleen go through a ‘self actualization’ because of the experience.

The mother’s understated but skilled support for her daughter and the intertwined relationships of the characters give an enlightening lesson on appreciating the gifts of others, even those who are different than ourselves.

Readers can discuss pivotal moments in their lives that changed them.

Other books about independent girls solving problems:
Fitzhugh, Louise. HARRIET THE SPY. ISBN 9780440416791
Hannigan, Katherine. IDA B. ISBN 0060730242

By Susie Demarest

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