Monday, September 8, 2008

Lauren Tarshis: Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

So this month, I guess I'm catching up on books I should have read more than a year ago but didn't. Lauren Tarshis' debut middle-grade novel falls right into that category.

I'd been reading about Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree for quite awhile:
  • Fuse #8 called it "memorable and supremely interesting."
  • Brookeshelf called it "both funny and heartbreaking."
  • Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast said, "Tarshis has absolutely and categorically nailed the day-to-day drama of your contemporary middle-school student."
  • My favorite catalog, Chinaberry, wrote a rave review, "Funny, honest, and tender, this is the best book I've come across in a long time about the sometimes excruciating world of middle school."
  • Even Oprah has chosen it for her Kids Reading List.
Can a thin little debut middle grade novel live up to all the hype?

Yes, it can.

Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree is quirky, fresh, funny, and honest. The story is told from the point of view of two seventh grade girls: Emma Jean, an exceedingly logical and pragmatic girl who never bursts into tears at the drop of a pin; and Colleen, who above all, just wants to be nice.

Emma Jean observes her classmates in the same way that she observes trees and other natural phenomenon: with a detached sense of scientific curiosity. She finds her fellow seventh graders illogically messy and unpredictable, and she prefers to watch from the sidelines. But when she comes across a tearful Colleen in the bathroom one day and decides to throw all caution to the wind and help her, Emma Jean's tightly controlled universe begins to unravel at the edges.

This book is filled with surprises, thoughtful spots, and laugh out loud moments. There's a particularly satisfying and lovely moment at the end about the edges of a quilt that I won't spoil for you, but I for one, got a little misty-eyed.

There are some great resources on Lauren Tarshis' website, including some information about characters in the book that are based on real people (or animals), a nice biography, and an encouraging little piece about writing. There's even a notice on the front page about a new book, "Emma Jean Lazarus Falls In Love," due out May 2009. I won't be waiting over a year to read that one.

Here's an interview with Lauren Tarshis on Barnes & Noble's website.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I read Emma-Jean Lazuruz fell out of a tree and it was the BEST book I have ever read!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!