I don’t do a ton of book reviews on here because there are SO MANY blogs reviewing books, kids books, and any certain kind of book you want to know about. These bloggers also seem to be out on the cutting edge reviewing things before they even come out. Plus there’s Goodreads so chances are, if a book is already out for you to read, you can find much more capable folks than I reviewing it.
But I do have certain types of books I read every year so heck, I might as well write up my thoughts each time. Who knows, I might even come up with something original every now and then. The list of books I read every year include the Georgia State Picturebook Award nominees (20 or so). The Gwinnett County Reader’s Rally books (15). And sometimes some of the Georgia State Book Award nominees. I also read most of my Guys Read book club books (12) and whatever else I get around to.
Save Me a Seat is co-authored by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan. It alternates chapters between Joe, who is a bit lumpy and has a sensitivity disorder in which he needs to wear earplugs in places like the cafeteria and goes to a pull out teacher to help him deal with noise distractors. He also has had a good friend move away and eats alone in the cafeteria, partially because there’s a popular bully who bothers him quite a bit.
Ravi (rah-VEE) and his family have just moved here from India and while he may have been a top student in both academics and sports there, here no one can pronounce his name, can barely understand him through his accent and he is also unknowingly being led down a merry path by the same bully who has been making Joe’s life miserable.
I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say the “save me a seat” thing is a bit of a Sleepless in Seattle thing where Joe and Ravi actually don’t have much to do with each other until the final chapters. Joe sees what Ravi is walking into with the bully but Ravi misinterprets Joe, doesn’t pay attention to him and kind of needs to be taken down a peg or two anyway.
That’s one of the best parts of the book, actually. The bully is not a big, angry doofus like the one Calvin of Calivn and Hobbs had to deal with. He’s more like a Gaston type from Beauty and the Beast. He’s good looking, popular and can make a derogatory (but not offensive) nickname stick whether you like it or not. And once Ravi realized what he is he also realizes that while not as bad, he himself was not especially great to some other kids at his old school in India. So the fact that his cricket prowess and top academic status there seem to mean diddly here is a good wakeup call for him. And of course it’s satisfying when he and Joe finally click and combine their forces.
It reminds me of a couple of things. First off, I’ve learned as an ELL teacher to do everything I can to get name pronunciations right. The best way is to cover up the name and simply as the person to say it to you slowly and clearly. Then memorize that. Only then to you look at the printed name. Then the printed name, however goofily it’s spelled will just mean whatever the pronunciation is to you. Whenever I do it I get kids with names like “Saphanthong” right and the kid get wide eyed and says “You’re the only one who says it right!” It’s important folks. It’s their NAME.
The other one is a story I heard from a co-worker many years ago. He was from India and his mom was an ambassador or something and they ended up moving to California. He was pretty confident he’d be fine because not only did he already speak English he had more than a year heads up about the move so read and watched everything he could about America and going to school there. His first day at his new school was going fine until we picked up his lunch in the cafeteria. It was Taco Tuesday. He didn’t know what the hell a taco was. “This isn’t American food! How am I supposed to eat this thing?”
Cracks me up every time.
Anyway, it’s a good book and not too long so it’s a quick read with plenty to discuss. Would make a fine read aloud. Make sure you read the glossary and pronounce things correctly!