EllRay's problems and how he works things out, after some bad choices, are hammered home with the school assignment all the kids are working on; picking fairy tales and explaining what they mean to them personally. In the end, friendships aren't the same but they're still there and both EllRay and Kevin have had the chance to try something new.
I was really excited about the first book in this series and I think it's still living up to its promise. It's not a perfect book, but it fills a niche, speaks to kids about what's really going on in their lives and at school, and has a steady circulation at my library. At some points it feels a little overly didactic and EllRay is much more thoughtful than any other third grader I've ever met. Also, the school assignment feels a little contrived, just there to help the plot along. However, the pros of the story - the real lives and problems the kids face, the way they think about things, and how they work stuff out - outweigh the literary drawbacks. Some adult readers will probably be uncomfortable at how divided EllRay's class is along gender lines and how he and his friends worry about being "girly", how EllRay worries about having to read words like "ass" or "abreast" aloud in class, but things like this are what make the story so realistic. The characters - like Kry Rodriguez, whom everybody likes and is actually a better skater than any of the boys - are not held to the stereotypes, but having talked to a lot of third graders (and had some very vigorous arguments with third grade boys about having girls in Lego Club) I can definitely say this is realistic. And, of course, this is a unique book that I'd push for no other reason than that it features a kid of color as the main protagonist, not as a friend of the main character, and he's suburban and modern, not historical or urban. Mostly boys read this series, but some girls enjoy it too and it really does offer experiences that pretty much all third graders can relate to.
Verdict: This isn't at all an additional series since there's really nothing else like it on the market, that I have seen anyways. Large or small, every public library should carry it.
ISBN: 9780670784998; Published 2013 by Viking/Penguin; Borrowed from the library