Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher & ARC: Sterling Children's Books
Zack Delacruz is unnoticed at his middle school—and that’s just the way he likes it. But a school assembly, a typhoon of spit, and an uncharacteristic moment of bravery are all it takes to change everything. Suddenly Zack is in charge of the class fundraiser. Worse, his partner is the school’s biggest bully! If they don’t sell all the chocolate bars, there will be no dance for the sixth grade. Zack never wanted to be a hero, but with his classmates’ hopes on the line, can he save the day?
- Trusted Author: Jeff Anderson has written several professional books, all of which I personally own, to help teachers teach grammar and writing. I’ve used both Mechanically Inclined and Everyday Editing with my tenth grade classes. There’s no author I trust more than one who has been or currently is a teacher.
- Friendship: The book has several characters that you would see any day in any middle school. Certain students who are not “popular” get the raw end of the deal when it comes to a social life, but genuine friendship beats every tortuous day of middle school. Zack has a best friend named Marquis, and by the end of the book, he’s obtained a few unlikely friends.
- Say “No” to Bullying: While the book does have a definite anti-bullying message,, Anderson doesn’t beat you over the head with it. Instead, readers watch as Janie and Zack are bullied constantly, and they have to earn (in a sense) the admiration of those who bully them. When Zack stands up for Janie, this is a defining moment for both bully and victim, and this sets Zack and the other characters on a new path--one they don’t want but appreciate later.
- Janie and Jose: While Zack is the main character, my two favorite characters were Janie and Jose. Perhaps because I am a teacher and love the quirky kids, those with that extra bit of personality that can drive you crazy on a stressful day or make you laugh just when you need it. Also being a movie-lover, I loved Janie’s movie quotes, which she had for every situation. The anticipation for Janie’s quote by the other characters definitely made me chuckle. Jose, though an obnoxious bully at the beginning of the book, has his flaws but I can also see that those flaws probably stem from home problems. Perhaps he doesn’t get enough food at home or have the best clothes so he acts out. I see that kid every year.
- Diversity: I especially appreciated a diverse cast of characters. While their races are hinted at through dialogue, dialect, and yearbook photos, each character has a unique personality that will easily represent a lot of different kids, which is a key for struggling readers. Maybe it takes a teacher to see this, as Kirkus Reviews, abhorrently called this book “forgettable.” I guarantee for many kids, this book is far from that.