Friday, September 18, 2015

Izzy Barr, Running Star by Claudia Mills, illustrated by Rob Shepperson

Mills follows up her previous Franklin School Friends titles with the long-awaited story of athletic third grader Izzy Barr, the third member of the trio of Kelsey Green and Annika Riz. Well, I've been waiting for it anyways! I loved the previous books which did a great job of capturing the single-minded focus of third graders, their trials and tribulations, and I was interested to see how Mills presented a girl with an athletic bent. I can't wait to give this one to my girls who beg for stories about girl athletes.

Izzy Barr loves sports and most of all running. She's thrilled to be running in the upcoming city 10K and in her school's field day. But when her dad doesn't make it to her softball game, she starts feeling second-best to her older step-brother Dustin. Will Izzy get herself back on track and tell her dad how she really feels?

Shepperson's black and white drawings show Izzy and her two friends from the previous books, each with their own particular interest - athletics, math, and reading - scrambling through a diverse school and with family and friends.

Izzy faces real difficulties without letting her story devolve into a problem novel or lecture on family dynamics. Both she and her dad have to reach out to each other and be honest about what they want, but there isn't necessarily a magical ending where Izzy gets everything she wants. Izzy's friends are supportive and the "mean girl" isn't unrealistically nasty. Mills' strength lies in the realism of her characters and her understanding of how third graders think and act. I love that she reflects the diverse interests and home lives of the kids; some have stay at home moms, some have working parents, some parents work night shifts. I especially love that their teacher is depicted realistically. She's not a goofy stereotype, but a firm, kindly, and probably exhausted woman.

Verdict: These are the perfect books for kids who are ready to start branching out from beginning chapters and like "real stories". They'll sympathize with the daily trials and tribulations of Izzy and her friends and see themselves and their world reflected in the diverse interests and families depicted here. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780374335786; Published 2015 by Margaret Ferguson Books/Farrar Straus Giroux; Review copy provided by publisher; Donated to the library

1 comment:

cmills said...

Thanks so much for the kind review, Jennifer. I especially loved your line about how their teacher is probably an exhausted woman; you clearly understand teachers! I appreciate your thoughtful comments so much.