BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Me and Rolly Maloo by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Elizabeth Buttler

Me and Rolly MalooJanet Wong has gone literally hybrid. Her latest title, debuting next month, is part graphic novel, part regular prose. Thanks to her flexible illustrator Elizabeth Buttler, the result is an entertaining new way for young readers to enjoy a story on different levels.

Popular. pretty Rolly Maloo is smart, but not as smart as Jenna Lee when it comes to the tougher math problems. In the middle of their math test, Jenna gets hit in her right ear with a small paper ball … a request to cheat from Rolly and Rolly’s best friend Patty Parker.

“Maybe helping Rolly Maloo with a math answer would be called charity,” Jenna tries to reason with herself. “And instead of calling her a cheater, maybe you could call her someone who is smart enough to ask for help.” Even though Jenna knows better, she finds herself throwing back the paper ball … with the right answer! And when she gets caught by Mrs. Pie, her favorite teacher, Jenna insists “no one” threw her the paper ball.

Wong constructs an intricate puzzle of family and friends who eventually help Jenna find her own solutions. Meanwhile, Wong inventively manages to take on the educational system and the problems of ‘teaching to the test,’ and even takes a well-deserved jab at career-PTA moms who live over-vicariously through their less-than-perfect-children.

Wong understands well the social pressures of being the smart kid whose single mother works too hard for too little, who doesn’t have a whole lot of friends, who never gets to sit at the popular table during lunch. Fourth grade can be quite a battleground, but Wong makes sure that Jenna Lee eventually figures out how to navigate the challenges with the help of real, true friends.  We should all be so lucky … in any grade, at any age!

Readers: Middle Grade

Published: 2010



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