Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Operation Frog Effect

Scheerger, Sarah. Operation Frog Effect
February 26th 2019 by Random House Books for Young
Copy provided by the publisher

Ms. Graham's fifth grade class is an exciting place to be. She lets the students help form classroom rules and homework policy, they work in groups, and there is even a class pet, Kermit. The students are also keeping journals, and we hear from the perspective of eight of them. Blake likes to draw his entries, and he and his mother struggle with housing and other issues. Aviva's mother is in the country without proper papers, and both miss Aviva's grandmother in Mexico. Emily is struggling with the fact that her two best friends are going to another school next year, and there is no way her mother can afford to send her there. Henry wants to be a movie director, so creates scripts for his entries. There are a lot of projects, and Ms. Graham includes a lot of social justice issues in her class. When a group decides to visit a homeless encampment without permission, many people get in trouble, and Ms. Graham is in danger of losing her job until the children are able to make the powers that be listen to their explanation.
Strengths: This is exactly on trend with its themes of social and emotional education. Ms. Graham is an engaging teacher, and her students are generally excited about learning, which is a good example to see in literature. The characters are all well defined, and the plot moves along nicely.
Weaknesses: There are quite a lot of social concerns included in this book. While this is quite common currently, I think it confuses young readers to have to deal with so many. And not so much a weakness as an observation: I'm trying to determine what it is that makes certain books set in elementary school unpopular with my readers, while others are fine. Sadly, class pets seem to be a big dividing factor, and the cartoon style on the cover makes this seem a bit young to my students.
What I really think: This will be popular with elementary students who enjoyed Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt, Korman's The Unteachables, Palacio's Wonder, Woodrow's Field Tripped, Woodson's Harbor Me, and other books that include a cast of characters that represent a variety of current cultural talking points or with fans of Varnes' Property of the Rebel Librarian and other books where the teacher's job is imperiled. However, I'm sending my copy over to the elementary school, because I think it will get more use there.

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