A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gertie's Leap to Greatness, by first-time author Kate Beasley, packs a lot of heavy issues and life lessons into its appealing story of a spirited fifth-grader in a small Southern town. Much of the story involves the young protagonist's desperately imaginative efforts to impress the mom who abandoned the family in Gertie's infancy and still wants nothing to do with them. There's also a 5-year-old whose parents are never around. A mean girl uses pretty much every evil, manipulative trick in the book to turn Gertie's friends against her, including starting a "save the planet" club she uses to bully Gertie, whose father works on an oil rig. Along the way, kind adults offer stability and wisdom, especially when the stress of it all leads Gertie to make some questionable choices. The author delivers strong messages of kindness, empathy, love of friends and family, and finding ways to be yourself -- usually by letting Gertie figure it out. Language is frequent, including "Give 'em hell, baby!" and one reference to farts.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
IN GERTIE'S LEAP TO GREATNESS, Gertie lives in a small Southern town with her dad, who's away half the time working on an oil rig, and her great-aunt Rae. She has some good friends, and she's looking forward to a great year in fifth grade. But when she learns that her birth mom, who lives in the same town but has had nothing to do with her since she was a baby, is about to remarry and leave town, Gertie hatches an imaginative, multistage plan to become the greatest fifth-grader ever to make the woman realize her error. Foiling Gertie's plan is a lip-gloss-wearing mean girl, newly arrived from California, who quickly turns most of Gertie's former friends against her. And it doesn't help that Gertie says hurtful things to friends and family when her buttons get pushed. Trouble, tears, laughs, and a few surprises soon follow.
Is it any good?
First-time novelist Kate Beasley delivers a spirited, relatable protagonist and a lively account of the trouble she gets into in this tale of fifth-grade life in a small Southern town. Appealing and believably flawed despite her best intentions, Gertie is easy for kids and adults to root for. Her dad and great-aunt are strong, kind figures, and her teacher shows good heart and much wisdom. Gertie's Leap to Greatness deftly nails a particularly nasty form of bullying: using a "good cause" as a weapon to make someone feel bad about themselves or their loved ones. Gertie's dad works on an oil rig, so the mean girl organizes everyone but her into a group picketing the school entrance with "Stop the drilling!":
"She could see a drawing of an oil rig with a big red X scratched over it. For Gertie it was like that drawing wasn't just any rig. It was her father's. And Gertie couldn't ignore them anymore.
"'You don't care about clean seas!' she yelled. 'You're doing this to be mean! All of you!'"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the bullying in Gertie's Leap to Greatness. How do people use noble-sounding slogans and causes to make other people feel bad? Do you think it helps or hurts a cause when its supporters act this way?
Gertie's Leap to Greatness takes place in a small town in the American South. How does that affect the characters' day-to-day lives, and how might that be similar to or different from life in your town?
When do you think it's a good thing to work really hard to impress someone else? And when are you better off doing something else?
- Author: Kate Beasley
- Illustrator: Jillian Tamaki
- Genre: Family Life
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Publication date: October 4, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 256
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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