|What You Need to Know:
• A day-by-day hilarious account of third grade from the biggest worrywart in town.
• This book is appropriate for both boys and girls.
• If you have a worrier at home, will this book give that child more things to worry about or will it help them find
ways to laugh off their worries? That might depend on your reader!
• Justin’s mom is Jewish and his dad is Christian so they celebrate holidays for both religions.
• The diary format and inclusion of lists and illustrations help to make this lengthy book (200+ pages) accessible to
|Sweet Book Summary:
Welcome to third grade. Teachers expect more and friendships change, not to mention the pressures of organized sports. It can be complicated for the average kid, but for a worrier like Justin, it can be downright stressful. “Okay, yes. I’m worried.” That’s the first line of the book, and it gives readers a pretty good indication of the pages to come. Justin worries about robbers, the boiler in the basement, math, cursive, a fire engine passing in the night, sleeping on the top bunk, sleeping on the bottom bunk, having a dog (too slobbery), not having a dog (no protection from bad guys), and even sitting behind a kid with a large head that might block his view of the board at school. In fact, Justin worries on almost every page of this book – and it is hilarious. If he's not worrying, he's thinking and offering his opinions. When they have dance practice instead of math, he says, "And people wonder what is wrong with education in America." When they have to write what they did over vacation, he says, "Can't we just please, for goodness' sake, move on already?" In spite of, or perhaps because of, his endless observations and worries, Justin is laugh out loud funny. He shows all of us that while an active imagination may lead to a long list of fears, it can also give rise to a uniquely creative mind.
Justin’s year unfolds in diary-like format starting on September 1st; each day, for the rest of the school year, we get to know him a little better. By page 8, when Justin says, “Sometimes my heart pounds so hard it feels like it will break my ribs” it is clear that he really struggles with his fears. Luckily, readers also learn very quickly how funny Justin is and they’ll enjoy reading about how he handles the trials and tribulations of 3rd grade. Justin has always been known as "Justin K" because his last name, Krzeszewski, is not easy to pronounce. According to Justin, the name looks like “somebody fell asleep and their head rolled around on the computer keyboard.” This year, his sometimes friend, sometimes bully, Xavier, gives him a new name – Justin Case - which, I have to say, is really clever! That’s not the only change that Justin is facing this year. His best friend, Daisy, only wants to hang out with the girls and his new teacher is obsessed with behavior and giving out superstars. Justin also has to deal with the loss of a favorite stuffed animal, the disappointment his dad seems to feel about his athletic ability, and the pressures of gym class. On the positive side, he makes some new friends, learns his times tables, scores a goal in soccer, earns some superstars, gets elected class representative, and even bravely faces the imaginary “bad boy” from his nightmares. All of which remind readers that there is a lot more to Justin than his anxiety.
Readers will find lots of details about school and references to schoolwork that will feel familiar: mapmaking, math problems, and poetry writing. Although, as with most 3rd graders, Justin’s life is about school, we do also get to know his family. His parents own a candy store, his mother is Jewish and his dad is Christian, he’s occasionally jealous of his younger sister, his grandparents can be goofy, and family holidays in New Jersey have their ups and downs. So, there’s a lot for readers to relate to, and even if they’re not worried about all of the same things as Justin, they are bound to have at least a few concerns in common! Just keep in mind that if children are dealing with their own worries, Justin might either give them more to think about (like on p.133 when he wonders if his plane will fall out of the sky) or he might make them see the positive things that can result from thinking like he does. The detailed drawings, scattered throughout the story, are a nice complement to the text. Sometimes silly, they are usually expressive and always entertaining.
|Author: Rachel Vail Illustrator: Matthew Cordell Published: 2010, 256 pages
Themes: Books for Boys, Family Life, Feelings, Friendship, Grandparents, Growing Up, Humor, Imagination, Overcoming Fears, School, Siblings
|Sweet Discussion Questions:
• Do you know anyone like Justin? Would you be friends with Justin? Why?
• Do you worry about any of the same things that Justin worries about?
• What makes you feel better when you worry?
• Are you embarrassed to tell your friends about any toys that you still like?
• What are you most afraid of and why?
• Do you think that Justin is funny? Creative? Brave?
• How does Justin fit in with the other kids at school? What makes them want to be his friend?
• Do you think that Justin’s parents are good at helping him handle his fears?
• Do you know anyone whose parents are of different religions? How do they celebrate their holidays?
• Do you have a brother or sister? Do they ever make you feel jealous or annoy you?
• How do your parents help you handle things when you feel afraid?
• Would you like to own a candy store?
|This recommendation was written by: Melissa G.
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