________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 18. . . .January 14, 2011.


Words That Start with B.

Vikki VanSickle.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2010.
207 pp., pbk., $8.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-0235-3.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Alicia Cheng.





In Grade seven your life is supposed to change forever. At least, it does if you’re a student at Ferndale Public School. That’s the year you spend in Miss Ross’s class, if you’re lucky. If you’re not, you end up in 7A with Mrs. White and spend the whole year wishing you were in Miss Ross’s class. The kids in 7A pretend they don’t care, saying the A stands for A+, but you can just as easily say that the B in 7B stands for better or best, and that would be the truth. There is no reason why some kids end up in 7A and some in 7B; it’s just one of those cosmic mystical things that is decided by the universe. I hope I’m on her good side this year.

Grade seven is a time of change and growing up for many people. It’s the awkward grade where you’re no longer a child, but not quite a teen yet. It’s the time where everything is bigger than it seems, the time for drama and uncertainty of what is to come. That’s certainly the case for Clarissa Delaney, the protagonist in Vikki VanSickle’s Words That Start With B.

     Clarissa Delaney is an average girl on the cusp of being a teenager with high expectations for grade seven. It was supposed to be the best year of her life. She was put in her favourite teacher’s class in September with her best friend Benji. It should have been a perfect year for the two of them. Instead, it has been the worst year so far. Everything has gone wrong – Miss Ross has gone on a sabbatical term, Benji is being bullied, there is a boy who gives her presents, and Mattie Cohen, a goody-two-shoes who wants to be her friend. The final blow is when Clarissa’s mother becomes really ill at the time Clarissa most needs her. These multiple and dramatic changes in her life come so suddenly that she does what every other teenager would do: she rebels. Clarissa tries to hide from her problems. In this book, VanSickle take readers through Clarissa’s emotional journey of discovery. She must learn to accept her problems, deal with these rapid changes, and make the best of the situation.

     Written from Clarissa’s point of view, Words That Start with B is an honest look at the life of teenagers growing up and figuring out their place in the world. Clarissa and Benji are two characters with opposite personalities – one is inconsiderate and rude at times, the other is kind and sensitive. They represent polar opposites, but together they form a unity which helps them through their grade seventh year of change and hardships.

     This story is weaved by a series of ‘B words’ which title the beginning of each chapter, hence the name of this book – Words That Start with B. Its unique chapter titles provide young readers with thought-provoking insights on their own life of the changes they have encountered or are currently experiencing. VanSickle’s Words That Start with B contains issues that are great for book club and mother-daughter discussions.


Alicia Cheng is a Children’s Librarian at Vancouver Public Library in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.