Friday, December 10, 2021

Guy Friday- Stuck

Swender, Jennifer. Stuck
November 9th 2021 by Crown Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Austin is used to moving, and he knows the routine. Students who aren't kind and make fun of his size, teachers who don't need yet another body in the classroom, and a resource room teacher who needs to test him but can't get his mom to keep meetings. Instead, he finds that Ms. G. is glad to see him, her class has set and predictable routines, and he is quickly befriended by the very talkative Bertie (Beatrice). Bertie keeps him company, shows him the ropes, and protects him from classmates who might be unkind. It's still lonely to walk home to his apartment near the school and talk to his mother only long enough to tell her that life is fine, but school seems reasonable. He copies down the assignments in his planner and pretends to read a book the teacher let him borrow, secretly watching the video for Bridge to Terebithia at night on his mother's old phone in case anyone asks him the plot. Austin can't read. He can make out a few words, but generally just pretends, staying on each page long enough so as to not arouse suspicion. Austin is content to fly under the radar and wait things out until the end of the school year, but when he shows an interest in the safety patrol, Bertie gets him a registration packet and helps him fill it out. This brings him to the attention of the teacher, who notices that his work on the packet seems very different from his class work, and refers him to the resource room, where he can actually get some help and learns that other students are working there as well. 
Strengths: There are many students who struggle in school for various reasons, and having characters in books who have various difficulties allows readers to be seen or to build empathy. It's nice to see a teacher with good classroom practices (and one who isn't new and enthusiastic or old and bitter), as well as helpful classmates. It's also interesting to see how long Austin manages to play the system and get by. Teachers will love the fact that Bridge to Terebithia is mentioned a lot.
Weaknesses: There are many questions about Austin's life that are never answered. Why does his mother move so often? What have his past struggles been that he has gotten to this point? Why does he have such an interest in colors? What is going on with Bertie and her extreme enthusiasm? 
What I really think: Austin is in 4th grade, and since many of the scenes are set in school, it might appeal more to elementary readers than middle school ones. Older readers will be interested in Austin's "labels" and curious as to the nature of his difficulties.
 Ms. Yingling

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