- Author: Lisa Graff
- Publisher: Pengin/Philomel Pub date: 2014
- Intended for: Ages 8 to 12
- Perfect for: Ages 8 to 12 and anyone looking for a realistic look at life from the perspective of an average 10-year-old kid.
Albie is the ten-year-old protagonist in Absolutely Almost and at the beginning of the story he’s just been kicked out of his private school in Manhattan for not performing well enough academically. Of course his parents don’t come out and tell him this, but he overhears enough of a conversation between his mother and grandfather to know what’s going on.
So from the beginning of the story we learn that Albie’s life is filled with lots of people telling him he’s not good enough. His father tells him that “almost” isn’t good enough—he wants perfect spelling test scores. His mother is hoping that Albie tests positive for dyslexia because that would give her a reason for his less-than-spectacular grasp of reading and math. On top of that, Albie’s best friend for the past six years is moving from across the hall to across the park. To top it all off, a mean boy at his new public school calls Albie “dummy” from day one.
That’s a lot for a young boy to deal with. A naïve young boy who believes people have the best of intentions.
There are so many good things about this book and one of them is that Albie isn’t your normal storybook hero. Throughout the whole book he struggles. He struggles with school. He struggles with friendships. He struggles with knowing the right thing to do. He tries really hard, but in the end he’s an average kid who is working his way through life and I love that readers get to read about someone like him.
Another one of the good things about this book is that the story told in short chapters that are great for young readers. Digestible chapters that aren’t intimidating. Each chapter is a snippet from Albie’s life, which gives readers a good look into how he navigates the murky waters all around him.
Yet another good thing is that Graff has created some really human, multi-dimensional characters, with the parents being realistically flawed, Albie’s math club teacher being patient and understanding, his best friend being true to himself, and his babysitter Calista being sympathetic, supportive, and encouraging.
It is through Calista that Albie begins to see that maybe he is good enough just as he is. She is patient and kind and never preachy with him, which is just the kind of approach Albie seems to need.
This book is the whole package—great writing, solid, well-developed characters, an interesting story, and a good deal of fun as well. Highly recommended.