Zigzag Kids: Number One Kid and Big Whopper
By Patricia Reilly Giff
Illustrated by Alasdair Bright
$15.99 (per hb.) and $4.99 (pb.)
Ages 6-9, 80 pages.
As you open the first books of Giff's new series, you almost expect to see kids bound off the pages and hear the long ring of a school bell.
There's such exuberance to Giff's early readers and Zigzag Kids is no exception.
In Zigzag Kids, Giff writes about after-school care at Zelda A. Zigzag elementary -- and in such a fun and lively way, it's as if Giff became a youngster herself when she wrote it (or got inside kids' heads for a look around).
The two-time Newbery Honor-winner understands how children feel -- even their silent worries -- and is keenly aware of how they interact with each other, with plenty of "humpfs" when they're frustrated and "eee-yaaahs" when they succeed.
Like her popular Polk Street Kids books, the new series, set in the basement of the school and at times at the YMCA, appeals, in a large part, because it shows children reacting to their world just as you'd expect them to.
Giff, who taught in public schools for 20 years, captures the sincerity of children's perceptions, and in doing so, makes her characters real to the kids who are reading about them:
When the series opens, new boy Mitchell compares the yellow-brick school to a stick of butter, unlike his old school, which was tall like a cereal box. Later, a kind lunch lady reminds Destiny of "a nice sugary doughnut."
As the Zigzag kids learn how to be friends, work their way out of mistakes and discover that they're likable in different ways, readers will identify with their trepidations and longings to belong.
In the first book, Number One Kid, Giff introduces the gang at the ZigZag Afternoon Center as she follows Mitchell, who wants to feel like he's Number 1 -- like his t-shirt says -- but worries that he won't be good enough at anything to win a prize.
In the second book, Big Whopper, the gang is now well-introduced, as is the afternoon program, and it's time for a special project -- a huge tube of paper is unrolled and pinned to the wall for the kids to fill in with all of their discoveries.
The problem is, Destiny can't think of anything she's ever discovered and before she knows it, she's fibbed about her art project, just to keep snooty Gina (who thinks she's great at everything) from making Destiny feel small.
Zigzag Kids "has been such a joy to write," Giff writes at the beginning of Number One Kid. "…Young characters dance in my mind; their stories captivate me. I can't wait to get out of bed each morning and see what they're up to!"
With after-school programs growing, the Zigzag books are sure to be gobbled up as quickly as cheese poppers and pudding cups in the Zigzag cafeteria.
I hope you'll join me below for a chat with Giff, then stop by the other blogs on the tour, including Giff's on Aug. 17. Just click the links that follow!
Aug. 10 Cynsations http://cynthialeitchsmith.blogspot.com
Aug. 11 Random Acts of Reading http://randomactsofreading.wordpress.com
Aug. 12 Where the Best Books Are! http://wherethebestbooksare.blogspot.com
Aug. 13 Shelf Elf http://shelfelf.wordpress.com
Aug. 14 Mundie Moms http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com
Aug. 15 The Children's Book Review http://thechildrensbookreview.com
Aug. 16 Chicken Spaghetti http://chickenspaghetti.typepad.com
Aug. 17 Patricia Reilly Giff http://patriciareillygiff.com
(Two additional dates outside the tour):
Aug. 25 TeachingAuthors.com http://teachingauthors.com
Sept. 7 Teachingbooks.net http://teachingbooks.net