Thursday, September 15, 2016

Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat by Gary Paulsen

Six kids - and a stuffed cat - gather in the bathroom during a tornado warning. Jordan is in the bathroom trying to stem his latest bloody nose (he has some anxiety issues which he covers with humor). He's joined by new kid Avery (plus stuffed cat), tough guy Taylor, air-guitar-playing Devon who never interacts with the world, and hyper-involved Mason and Regan. Six more disparate kids could not exist and yet, by the time the all-clear sounds they've formed friendships and learned to appreciate each other's differences.

This novella has Paulsen's trademark humor and quirky kids; it's also followed by a one-act play, in case you want to recreate the scenes yourself. One of the things I also found interesting was that all the names of the kids are gender-neutral and the playscript calls for either boys or girls. Which leads to an interesting discussion - is the behavior of the kids typical of only middle school boys or does it ring true across the spectrum of genders? Even in a short novella the book also gets into the underlying reasons for the various kids' behaviors. The "if we just talked together we'd be friends" theme seems a little naive, but reluctant readers will enjoy the humor and also the short length and teachers will find interesting talking points in this as well.

Verdict: If you have Gary Paulsen fans, this is a good addition, or if you need plays for kids. Otherwise it's probably an additional purchase, but it's a light and fun read and you can't ever really have too many of those for middle schoolers.

ISBN: 9781481452236; Published 2016 by Simon and Schuster; Purchased for the library

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