Baker, Kim. PICKLE: The (formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School
5 September 2012, Roaring Brook Press
Nominated for the Cybils by Laurie Ann Thompson
Review copy provided by Roaring Brook Press
After Ben performs the epic prank of filling his school classroom up with the entire contents of a ball pit he gets from a local pizza parlor, he decides that he needs a group to help him pull off more pranks. His best friend, Hector, won't be any use, since his grandmother is the principal of their middle school. He enlists Frank and Oliver, since they seem like likely candidates for trouble, and Bean, since Frank won't join without her. They plan a birthday celebration for a new girl on her first day, then decide to become an official school group. As a cover, they pretend to be interested in making pickles for the school pioneer fair, and their teacher, Ms. Ruiz, gives them a lot of free reign as their advisor. Eventually, the new girl, Sienna, wants part of the action, which is okay with Ben, since he thinks she is cute. The group manages to pull off several fairly harmless pranks, like filling the school fountain with dish washing liquid and causing a panic at the local zoo while wearing animal costumes, but they save their final prank for the school pioneer fair. Ben doesn't agree with the prank, which ends rather disastrously, with all school activities being taken away as a result. Ben and his group pull one more prank-- a protest to get school activities reinstated.
Strengths: This was a fairly funny book, and students will enjoy the pranks. Multicultural characters add depth (Ben's family runs a Mexican restaurant), and the illustrations by Tim Probert are perfect for middle school. Always can use funny books for middle school boys.
Weaknesses: The pranks really are rather destructive and need time-intensive clean up from middle school staff, but this doesn't seem to bother Ben and his friends. They absolutely ruin the pioneer fair and THEN complain that they don't have extracurricular activities? They are lucky they didn't get expelled! I found this facet of the book rather alarming-- I'm not big on lesson books, but if students are this destructive, I don't think it's even realistic for them to get away with it, even in fiction!