Kelsey Green, Reading Queen
Illustrated by Rob Shepperson (Margaret Ferguson Books/FSG 2013)
Junior Library Guild selection
Cybil Award finalist for Early Chapter books
Capitol Choice Book
How I Came to Write This Book:
Growing up as a reader in North Plainfield, NJ, each summer I entered the public library’s reading contest, delighted when my name appeared in the paper as the child who had read the most books for my grade level. I loved those reading contests, but as I got older I began to have some reservations about making reading into a competition, where kids read for points or prizes, rather than for the sake of the books themselves. So in Kelsey I created a girl like my younger self, who loves to read but also loves to win. I hope the book shares the fun of reading contests but also raises a few doubts about them.
Kelsey might be the reading queen of her third-grade class, but her throne is threatened when principal Mr. Boone announces a school-wide reading challenge: two thousand books read before April, and he’ll shave off his beard. What to do? Like every precocious reader who’s ever gamed a summer reading club, Kelsey puts down The Secret Garden for Sarah, Plain and Tall, and any other “short but age-appropriate book she could find.” First in a new series, the chapter book explores Mills’s favorite subject—everyday life with a side of ethical examination—to good effect as Kelsey discovers the difference between loving to read and loving to win. In a considerable plus, the book name-checks a number of easy-reader and chapter-book classics so that Kelsey’s enthusiasm can be passed right along. Frequent and aptly casual illustrations pace the narrative.
When the principal of Kelsey’s school announces a month-long reading contest, Kelsey is positive she will lead her third-grade class to victory. Kelsey loves books like her best friends, Annika and Izzy, love math and running, and nothing is going to stop her class from winning—or stop Kelsey from reading the most books. Except, maybe, for Simon, who reads as voraciously as Kelsey, or Kelsey’s parents, who insist she miss reading time to attend her siblings’ various functions (“Her mother called it ‘being a family’ ”). Certain that Simon is cheating, Kelsey enlists Annika and Izzy to help spy on him. Single-minded and a tad selfish, Kelsey isn’t always the most pleasant of third-graders—but she’s 100% realistic. And although Kelsey’s excitement about the reading contest skews her priorities, she redeems herself (and shares her love of books) when she helps out a classmate who struggles with reading. Shepperson’s lively pencil illustrations capture the upbeat mood of this excellent first book in the Franklin School Friends series.
This new series shows a lot of promise.