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Volume VIII Number 1 . . . . September 7, 2001
"We're playing Castle," Ruthie told Evelyn.Samantha's problems start on the first day of school. Mean old Evelyn, the class bully whose favourite word is 'stinky,' teases Samantha because her mom will do remedial teaching at the school this year. Evelyn also takes over Samantha's favourite game and her timid new friend Ruthie. Then, Samantha discovers Evelyn has to get help with her spelling, and Ruthie decides to turn her back on Evelyn's bossy ways. The time has come to turn the tables on 'stinky Evelyn,' and Samantha has a smelly plan that will do the trick.
Samantha will win fans for her positive character traits: kindness and understanding for the quiet new girl, Ruthie, determination to ignore Evelyn's meanness even though it leaves her friendless, and an ability to forgive Evelyn and cheer her eventual spelling success. Samantha proves to be a true friend, ready to stand by Ruthie no matter what, and she relies on no one but herself to come up with an answer to the problem. Independent readers will see how an author develops believable character personalities through their thoughts, actions and dialogue.
The conflict is one with which readers of this "First Flight Chapter Book" may readily identify, and the solution process may well be a useful example of one way to resolve such difficulties. The bullying dilemma is presented so that both sides are evident and the need for understanding and empathy is obvious. There is a build-up of tension as Samantha struggles with her hurt feelings, trying to come up with a way to show Evelyn how real friends behave. The eventual 'smelly' solution is foreshadowed in Chapter Five when Samantha accidentally spills the perfume.
The plot is fast-paced, with plenty of character interaction and easy-to-handle-vocabulary.
Gillian Richardson, who lives in BC, is a former teacher-librarian and a published children's writer of fiction and nonfiction.
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