Friday, November 11, 2011

President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston

Brianna has her life exactly planned out; she’s going to follow in the footsteps of her heroine, celebrity chef Miss Delicious by being president of her fifth grade class, then she’s going to become a famous cupcake chef and make millions! She and her friends are already super at saving money and they’re all set for a winning campaign.

But everything goes wrong. First, the school changes the rules and now she’s not just running for president of her class against Todd the Toad, she’s running against everyone to be president of ALL the fifth grade classes! Next, a new girl shows up. Jasmine Moon is mysterious, fascinating, and she’s running for president too! Then Brianna’s best friend Becks gets put onto Jasmine’s campaign and things go downhill from there.

Now, instead of running a successful campaign with her three best friends, Brianna is paired up with Raymond “the Weasel” who is encouraging her to cheat and reveal Jasmine Moon’s darkest secret – after all, she tried to do the same thing to Brianna! Her friends aren’t talking to her, she accidentally dyed her hair blue, and she embarrassed herself in front of the entire school. The only bright spot is her new job making cupcakes for the Weasel’s mom.

In the end, Brianna has to decide what’s most important; her friends or winning – and what being president of the whole fifth grade really means.

This is a story that 4th and 5th graders will eat up with glee. Interesting and realistic characters and a plot they can identify with as well as funny incidents, a little drama, and a lot of cupcakes will make this a favorite. I did find the character of Weasel a little unbelievable – not his exaggerated behavior, which I can completely see a 5th grade boy doing, but his ability to keep it up throughout the story. However, kids will probably find that hilarious. I also wondered why we never really see Brianna’s parents – she seems to stay with her narcoleptic grandfather every day after school, she gets advice from her aunt, and when things finally fall apart completely she confides to Weasel’s mom, in whose bakery she works. Where were her parents during all of this?

These were my few minor quibbles though and on the whole this is a fun, interesting story. And bonus points for a story about an African American girl who doesn’t live in the inner city AND is pictured on the cover! Now if we can just see a few more similar books about Latina/Latino boys and girls…

Verdict: A well-written and fun story both boys and girls will enjoy. Good messages that aren’t hammered home with a pickax and a diverse cast of characters. Recommended for both school and public libraries.

ISBN: 9780316114325; Published October 2010 by Little Brown; ARC provided by publisher

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