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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dunces Anonymous, written by Kate Jaimet. Orca, 2009. $9.95 ages 9 and up

"Emmett Blackwell was really getting
on Magnolia's nerves. He wouldn't
even speak to her when she was just
Schoolgirl Number Three, and now
that she was Juliet, he wouldn't lay
off. Planning to kiss her on performance
night! Calling her "my Juliet" in the
schoolyard and winking at her at
recess! It was gross!

This was my afternoon's work...and suffice it to say, I love my work!

It is such a fun read, with memorable characters and fast-paced action. I can guarantee that many kids in grade four and up will love it!

It begins when Josh calls a meeting of Dunces Anonymous...a club for Kids who aren't as Good at Stuff as their Parents Think they Should Be. You would think it would attract a large number of members. Not so, only three. But those three bring great character and fun to the club and make readers wish they could be part of it, too! Josh's problem is a mom who wants him to be involved in community and student affairs, to be like her. She wants him to run for class president. Is there anyone less likely to win than Josh? Perhaps. The first task of Dunces Anonymous is to ensure that Josh does NOT win the election.

Wang loves many things, except chess. Wang's father wants him to become a chess master and pushes him to learn how to play in order to learn to discipline himself. And Magnolia, the third attendee, loves acting but does not want a lead role in a romance. It is the role that her mother always dreamed of playing and so she wants Magnolia to be Juliet.

Once Josh's defeat is ensured, the club goes on to try to solve the dilemmas of its other members. Unfortunately for Magnolia her competitive spirit leads her to THE  role she does not covet and now she is faced with an enamored Romeo. It is up to the three friends to try and deter Emmett's romantic illusions and find him a 'secret admirer'.
Josh and Wang find a way to be part of the stage crew in order to be close to the action. Wang gets a role that involves sword fighting and he finds himself interested in learning more about it. A Saturday morning workshop means he can't go to a planned chess tournament, and Josh agrees to take his place. You know where I'm going with this...right? On and on it goes, with each new solution leading to another problem. It has you reading just to keep up with the action!

Josh, Magnolia and Wang may not want to live up to their parents' expectations but they are smart, resourceful and very supportive of club members. Kids will enjoy the relationship and strength they find in each other's difficulties and inventive, if unconventional, solutions.

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