Monday, December 14, 2009

Middle Grade Mondays: Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally)

Author: Lisa Yee
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Pages: 160
Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12 years

Summary of Book (Amazon’s Description):
Meet Robert Carver Ellis-Chan -- a perfectly normal fourth-grader who gets into perfectly crazy situations! Like when he was running for class president and discovered his big sister's panties (static-) clinging to the back of his sweater. Or when he got stuck to the rare sticky (and stinky) Koloff tree on a field trip. . . . Then there's his family -- busy mom, ex-pro football player dad, a bossy older sister and an adoring younger one -- and best friends (one of whom is a secret, because she's a *girl*). Life may be complicated for Bobby, but it's going to turn out just fine.

During the spring, I had an opportunity to meet Lisa Yee at the UCLA Festival of Books. After hearing Lisa speak, I was interested in reading her most recent book, Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally). Bobby is a fourth grade boy sandwiched between his football playing older sister and his princess accessorized little sister. His father is an ex-football player turned “PTA lady” and his mother works out of the home full-time. Life is about to change for Bobby. He doesn’t understand why his best friend Holly doesn’t want to hang out with him anymore. And as if that weren’t bad enough, Bobby wants a dog for a pet but instead he acquires a goldfish. If that wasn’t all, Bobby and Holly end up facing off against one another for fourth grade class president. Now the fun has begun…

Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) is an enjoyable, if somewhat quirky read. The dialogue between students seems genuine and Bobby’s confusion over the situations he finds himself in is typical of this age group. Fourth grade is the time when children begin to change in their relationships to parents and peers. Parents are now the source of embarrassment, and understanding the evolving relationships between boys and girls can be confusing. Yee tells Bobby’s story with humor, and tenderness.

Lisa Yee has also developed some great characters, which could seem comical and over the top, but work in this story. Though this is considered a Middle Grade fiction book, I would recommend Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) for the younger end of the age range (3rd to 5th graders). My 3rd grade niece and several of my students not only found Bobby’s predicaments humorous, but loved the references to local establishments which were recognizable despite some minor name changes (we live one city over from the town that the fictional setting was based on). Additionally, the story is simple and Bobby is very easy to relate to making this tale particularly good for reluctant readers.

As the holiday season and winter vacation is quickly approaching, I encourage you find a book and a child and read together.

- Aly

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