Third Grade Angels
by Spinelli, Jerry; Bell, Jennifer A. (ILT)

"George 'Suds' Morton competes with his third-grade classmates to earn the first 'halo' of the year for good behavior, but being good turns out to be more stressful than he anticipated"-

Jerry Spinelli won the Newbery Medal in 1991 for Maniac Magee, one of his more than 25 acclaimed books for young readers. He now lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Eileen Spinelli, who is also an author of children's books.

Reflecting on a school-yard rhyme, "First grade babies! / Second grade cats! / Third grade angels! / Fourth grade rats!," Suds happily leaves babies and cats behind to start third grade as an angel. His cheerful teacher explains that her third-graders can earn their halos by doing good deeds. Suds is determined to be the first to win his halo, but the competition is fierce and his anxiety level rises. Just when the outcome seems clear, surprises come from both his classmates and his teacher. Spinelli works in some interesting concepts, such as levels of niceness (positive actions versus cessation of negative actions) and the questionable value of goal-oriented goodness. A prequel to Spinelli's Fourth Grade Rats (1991), this accessible chapter book features a simply written, first-person narrative and believable, true-to-third-grade characters. Illustrations include plenty of black-and-white pictures (most not seen in final form) and a clever, eye-catching image on the jacket. For discussion, pair this with Claudia Mills' Perfectly Chelsea (2004), featuring a child who strives for goodness in a religious context. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Suds Morton is not yet a "Fourth Grade Rat." In this prequel to Spinelli's 1991 standby, he is a year younger and, according to his school's traditional chant, he aspires to the sobriquet of "Third Grade Angel." When his teacher announces her intention of rewarding angelic behavior with a halo, Suds decides he wants to be the first angel. Between his cool new friend Joey, his wise mom and a little conclusion-jumping, he comes up with a plan. But, of course, his results are just a little off-kilter. Suds, nicknamed for his preference for calming soaks in bubble baths when he gets "chipmunky," needs all the help he can get to deal with the various disasters and tribulations that threaten to overwhelm him. Along with the angel chase there's a pesky little sister, a fifth-grade bully and total rejection by the girl he adores. Spinelli doesn't miss a beat in recreating the characters from the earlier work and never reveals any hint of Suds' fourth-grade future. He lets readers into Suds' 8-year-old mind without condescension. His problems and concerns are treated comically but with genuine kindness. Suds is innocent, gullible and trusting; he is also entirely good-hearted. Young readers will recognize Suds as one of their own and will gladly follow him to fourth grade. Sweet and funny. (Fiction. 7-10) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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