by Lisa Graff
First sentence: “Not everybody can be the rock at the top of the rock pile.”
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Content: It’s pretty basic: short chapters, nothing too difficult plot or language-wise. It’d be good for reluctant readers as well as stronger ones. It’s in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.
Albie has spent his life being almost. Almost smart enough. Almost good enough. Almost observant enough. But not quite. In fact, he’s been kicked out of his fancy prep school because he wasn’t smart enough, and his parents sent him to a public school. It’s never said what kind of learning disorder Albie has, but he definitely has one: math is hard, spelling is near impossible, and he just can’t live up to his busy parents’ expectations.
But things are going to change for Albie — not drastically, but some — because of a couple of teachers and a nanny who truly see potential in Albie. Not for just almost, but on his own terms.
It’s a simple story, following Albie over the course of most of a school year. He does learn and grow, and figures out things about friendship and how to stand up to his overbearing parents. It’s one of those affirming books: kids can be successful on their own terms and in their own way, and we need to appreciate that without making them measure up to some sort of standard. It’s all fine and good and sweet (and I did like Albie, quite a bit), but it lacked depth for me. Sure, it’s a middle grade novel, but that doesn’t mean that there can be some bite, some seriousness to it.
I don’t know if I was looking to shed tears, or to be Truly Moved, but I did feel like this one felt a little flat. Not bad, but not amazing, either.