Fifth grade can be hard on a kid, and I don’t mean the school work. Judy Nill’s middle-grade novel, TOO BIG, covers: making difficult decisions, accepting responsibility, family relationships, school friendships and school enemyships, and crime.
The protagonist of this story, Shelby, is a smart fifth grader who faces some serious problems. For one thing, she is larger than the average fifth grader. For another, she has to wear glasses, which she considers ugly. These problems make her the butt of jokes by the obnoxious kids. The smart alecs might think it’s funny but it hurts Shelby’s feelings. A possible saving grace might be for her to move up to the sixth grade at mid-year. It’s a decision Shelby vacillates about.
Shelby has one dear friend, Zoe. Zoe is a peace-maker type and welcomes the new boy, Deke, into her circle, realizing that he likes Shelby. Zoe also tames Kenny, the worst of the taunters. But Shelby is jealous and wants Zoe all to herself. In a kind of revenge, Shelby allows herself to be flattered into a false friendship with Marissa, a sixth grader with a mysterious past. Shelby sees Marissa slip some makeup into her pocket at the drug store, but at the counter, Marissa pays for the item. Was it because she knew Shelby saw her take it?
Shelby is very sweet to her little sister, Lindy; she gave her her old stuffed bear, BeeGee, and Lindy really loves him. She even talks in his voice. Their mom works and their dad has an electrical shop next to the house, so he is close by when the girls come home from school. The parents use big words when talking to the girls and the dad always says, “Look it up in the dictionary.”
As Shelby and Zoe draw apart, Shelby becomes involved in the deceitful dealings of Marissa and her friends. She manages to extricate herself from Marissa, or at least she tries to, but Marissa threatens to implicate Shelby if her gang is caught selling stolen goods. Shelby is afraid to tell her family or her teacher the truth.
Shelby’s reactions to her problems and relationships are authentic. She vacillates, she gets angry, she tries to act grown-up, she fakes being sick, and acts normal in other immature ways. There is much here for young readers to relate to.
n Halloween. Although Shelby and Zoe have always gone trick-or-treating together in the past, this year, Shelby decides not to go with Zoe. While hiding in the bushes near Zoe’s house, Shelby and Lindy are kid-napped by Marissa and her gang. They are taken into the woods where Lindy gets her arm fractured. Shelby and Lindy escape, but BeeGee is lost.
Zoe, Deke, and Kenny rescue Shelby and Lindy and find the missing BeeGee. Now Shelby must admit that Zoe was right to include Deke and Kenny in her circle. Shelby takes responsibility for all her mistakes, but Marissa never takes responsibility for her wrong-doings. Her mother lies for her and sends her off to her grandma’s. Feeling secure in a circle of friends, Shelby makes the decision to stay in the fifth grade.
This book was published by Guardian Angel Publishing. You can find more information about the book and ordering information here: http://guardianangelpublishing.com/too-big.htm
As a licensed mental health counselor, Judy Dearborn Nill endows the characters in her books with real psychology and real human problems. It helps that she remembers her youth vividly, so that her young characters think and feel like REAL people. And her readers can believe in them the same way a youngster like Lindy can believe that the Velveteen Rabbit (and her own stuffy) is REAL.
I enjoyed reading TOO BIG, and I think it will be of help to young readers who have differences that make them the butt of jokes. Nobody is alone in what seems to be an unfriendly environment.