Author: Jennifer Swender
Genre: Realistic Middle Grade Fiction
Number of Pages: 144
This was a cute story that might appeal to younger kids who are just starting to get into chapter books than me, an adult. The main character, Austin, is a shy pre-teen boy with a learning disability. His mom moves them around a lot and he isn’t given much time to acclimate to new places.
He tries his hardest to hide his dyslexia from his classmates and teachers and uses inferences and observation to do his schoolwork even though he can barely read. Then he meets Bertie, a gregarious and friendly girl who sets out to befriend him. He starts to actually feel at home in this new place, despite concerns that his mom will make him move again.
This book is an extremely quick read that has a simple plot and likable characters. I especially liked Bertie and what a positive and open person she was. She was a very good friend for Austin, who was anxious and tended to keep his feelings to himself. I thought it was interesting how the kid who initially seemed like a bully turned out to just have really bad social skills. He wanted to befriend Austin and Bertie and didn’t know how.
However, parts of this novel feel a little bit unfinished, like they could have used a lot more development. For one thing they could have gone into a lot more depth about Austin’s dyslexia. The teachers eventually found out and started trying to help him with his learning but it was really abrupt and lacked impact.
I also never got to see his mom’s reaction to his diagnosis and whether she decided to step up as a parent and help him to succeed in school. I was also curious why the mom was moving around a lot and whether she had some kind of mental health issue, but that was never explained. There was a lot of potential here that the author just skimmed the surface of.