A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Absolutely Almost follows in popular author Lisa Graff's tradition of interconnected plot threads and light, upbeat stories resting atop deeper issues. In this case, 10-year-old Albie struggles with living up to his parents' expectations, coping with mean kids at school, dealing with change, and figuring out what he's more than almost good at. Along the way he has quite a few adventures -- usually with his babysitter, Calista -- that broaden his horizons, teach him new skills, and get him into trouble -- such as the time he doesn't want to face the mean kids at school, so he and Calista go to the zoo instead. Many kids will relate to his difficulties, appreciate his triumphs, and laugh at the gentle humor. (If they've missed the Captain Underpants series, Albie's enthusiasm for it may steer them in that direction.)
What's the story?
Ten-year-old Albin ("Albie") Schaffhauser isn't very good in school or at much of anything compared with his parents (his Swiss-American dad and Korean-American mom are busy overachievers) or his friends (one of whom becomes a reality show star). He makes the guy who delivers the Chinese takeout to his family's eighth-floor Manhattan apartment very happy because he can't calculate and always overtips. His fancy private school has booted him for not being able to keep up academically, so now he's starting public school, where he meets caring teachers, makes a friend, and encounters mean kids. However hard he tries, he's never better than ABSOLUTELY ALMOST good at anything. Helping him get through it all are some kind teachers and the free-spirited art student his parents hire as his nanny.
Is it any good?
Many a kid has failed to measure up to expectations, and Albie's struggles to figure things out and deal with being called "dummy" will resonate with a lot of young readers. Some will feel good figuring out some things before Albie does, from math to social cues. Albie's day-to-day life in Manhattan will fascinate kids who live elsewhere, from visiting the bodegas and the Bronx Zoo to riding the subways -- and experiencing what happens when the subways break down. The adventures (and coping skills) of his best friend Erlan's family when they become reality TV stars will have young and old readers in stitches.
Characters reflect New York City's diverse culture in a light, matter-of-fact way: Albie's mom is Korean-American, and his dad is Swiss-American; Erlan's family comes from Kazakhstan; and one of Albie's classmates has two dads.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how hard it is to try to do the right thing when something always seems to go wrong -- or to not feel good enough. Have you ever felt like this? How did you deal with it?
Have you read any other books about kids who live in New York City? Do you think you'd like to live there? What do you think you'd like best?
Albie's secret superhero identity is Donut Man. What's yours? What's your superpower?
- Author: Lisa Graff
- Genre: Friendship
- Topics: Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Philomel
- Publication date: June 17, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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