Kelsey Green, Reading Queen
written by Claudia Mills; pictures by Rob Shepperson
2013 (Farrar Straus Giroux)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
Kelsey Green is a third grader who loves reading. She has a book in her lap during math, which probably isn't the best way to learn how to solve fractions and doesn't endear her to Mrs. Molina, her teacher. Fortunately for Kelsey, Mr. Boone, her jovial and bearded principal, interrupts class to announce the first annual school-wide reading contest. Among the announced rewards: the person who reads the most books in each class will have their name inscribed on a plaque. For the next month, Kelsey obsesses over this goal. In the process of trying to be the top reader, she drives her family and friends crazy. By the end of the contest, Kelsey has learned some valuable lessons and makes a surprising new friend.
One of the first things that I look for when reading a book that is based in a school is whether or not it rings true to the setting. Kelsey Green passes this test. She is not a flat character, but instead has flaws that make her more interesting. She occasionally throws tantrums and isn't always the nicest person. Overall, she's a great kid, but also not so great as to not be authentic. In this era of reading as competition (see Accelerated Reader, Battle of the Books, and reading-based fundraisers), some important questions are raised by reading this book. I would ask students if it was healthy for Kelsey to be part of this contest. What are some of the pros and cons of having a reading contest? I think you can also ask a question about identity. Is it healthy to tie your identity to one thing or better to be more well rounded? I like the class or small group discussions that will emanate from reading Kelsey Green. Second and third grade readers will easily connect to Kelsey and her friends which makes this a good pick for a class read aloud.