EllRay Jakes Is a Rock Star!

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
EllRay Jakes Is a Rock Star! Book Poster Image
Third-grader's struggle to look cool gets him in trouble.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

EllRay's dad is a geologist, and some explaining of what a geologist studies, and some simple facts about types of rock crystals and where they are found, are part of the story. Also, EllRay and his teacher playfully correct each other's grammar.

Positive Messages

When EllRay gives away his dad's prized crystals, the elation he feels at impressing his classmates is short-lived. Plagued by a guilty conscience, he realizes he has to tell the truth to his parents, friends, and teacher, and replace the objects he stole.

Positive Role Models & Representations

EllRay is guided by an understanding teacher, Ms. Sanchez, and firm but loving parents -- especially his professor father. Adults in the novel are educated and reasonable. The students in EllRay's class represent a variety of personalities; not all of them are likeable, but EllRay has a solid sense of what is right and fair. After he manages to put the crystals back where they belong, EllRay sets a fine example for his younger sister, Alfie.

Violence & Scariness

There's moderate, realistic tension surrounding EllRay's theft of the crystals, but adults remain calm throughout. EllRay also refers to other children having threatened to beat him up in the past.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is the second book in Sally Warner's EllRay Jakes series, following EllRay Jakes is Not a Chicken! Another installment, EllRay Jakes Walks the Plank!, is coming. Warner has also written several novels centering on Emma, one of EllRay's classmates. EllRay encounters realistic playground situations, including moderate kid meanness, bragging, and physical threats (though no actual violence), but situations are described in a light, humorous tone. EllRay's worst moments at school include being blackmailed into washing his hands in the girls' bathroom, and into giving a Valentine bouquet to a girl in his class.

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What's the story?

When a third-grade bragging contest among students in his class makes EllRay Jakes feel small (literally and figuratively), he decides he needs a way to capture his friends' attention. While his dad, a geologist, is away at a conference, EllRay \"borrows\" part of his father's prized crystal collection to show his class. Unfortunately, EllRay gets so carried away by feeling like a \"rock star,\" that he actually gives the crystals away to his adoring fans. EllRay's father comes home to find his specimen shelf depleted, and EllRay must confess his crime and face the embarrassment of taking back his \"gifts.\"

Is it any good?

This book is not long on details or character development -- half a dozen two-dimensional third-graders are rapidly introduced in the first couple of pages. However, EllRay's situation in his peer group seems realistic, and the feelings of guilt and confusion EllRay faces definitely hit home. Warner's humorous approach to playground struggles, and the structure of the book -- with the narrative broken up by the mental lists that EllRay makes -- keep things light and engaging for middle-grade readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how EllRay knows it's wrong to steal, but he takes them anyway because he desperately wants to impress the other kids at school. Parents can remind kids that it's more important to do the right thing than to be popular or cool, and make sure they know that adults can help them navigate confusing situations.

  • Do you think EllRay was treated fairly? What would you do if you were in EllRay's shoes?

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