Extraordinary

Book review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Extraordinary Book Poster Image
Hopeful tale of girl's response to friend's brain damage.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Strong messages about loyalty, being a good friend, patience, standing up to bullies, seeking forgiveness, acceptance, learning new things, perseverance, space to grieve for a lost friendship, enduring uncertainty.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The kid characters are well-developed, thoughtful, and realistically flawed for their ages. Pansy is a caring, sensitive, intelligent, determined 11-year-old. She is practical but still has faith in big ideas and miracles; she's a sweet, hopeful girl whose drive and determination are admirable. She breaks promises and sometimes makes mistakes -- some of which are real, including "sort of" cheating in a book competition, and some of which are imagined -- but works diligently to right them. Friend Andy is a loyal and protective brother and friend. Zach Turansky is bully who's later contrite. Adults are engaged, present, and thoughtful mentors. 

Violence

A few wipeouts with minor injuries; rollerblading spill leads to skinned knees; rollerblading accident leads to sprained, swollen ankle; girl is dragged by dogs on skates, then wipes out.

Sex
Language

Name-calling: Bully uses "retard" multiple times and is always corrected; "klutz."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Extraordinary is a sweet and moving portrayal of an 11-year-old girl's efforts to come to terms with her friend's recent permanent brain damage and upcoming brain surgery to relieve seizures. The book focuses on her efforts to right all the perceived wrongs she feels she committed against her friend before she got sick, and her admirable hope that her friend may return to her former self against all odds. There's some moderate bullying (with standing up to the bully), heavy themes, and frank discussions of a serious mental injury and the real risks of surgery, including death, but remarkably positive messages about the meaning of friendship, forgiveness, redemption, and acceptance.

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What's the story?

Ever since Pansy's friend Anna got sick and suffered permanent brain damage, Pansy has been trying to make herself EXTRAORDINARY. If she can just fix the mistakes she made when they were friends and redo the promises she broke, maybe Anna's upcoming brain surgery will go well and she'll return to her old self. Even though parents say Anna will never be the same, Pansy believes if she tries hard enough, and is good enough, Anna will be well. 

Is it any good?

This poignant story about a girl's illness and brain damage offers a remarkable look at friendship, hope, and forgiveness. Pansy is hard on herself but doggedly optimistic in the face of serious challenges, and the lessons here about valuing friends, being an attentive and caring person, and accepting the difficult realties of our own mortality are thoughtful and bittersweet.

But the book isn't all heavy themes about growing up. Author Spitzer Franklin weaves in important messages about making new friends, standing up for the old ones, trying new things even when you're bad at them, and learning how to let go while still being there for your friend. It's a book about big things and little things all at once.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about books about serious medical conditions. Why do you think they're so popular?

  • What does Pansy learn about friendship?

  • Have you ever known someone who was very sick? How did you deal with it?

Book details

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