If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period Book Poster Image
Engrossing story of struggling to fit in at private school.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Don't judge people by the color of their skin, their body type, or their looks. Be yourself and don't try to be something you're not just to fit in. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kirsten has a good heart and common sense. She's open to friendships with people of all kinds. Some of the kids at school are truly mean and cruel, and many of the adult figures in the story are disconnected and ineffectual. Several secondary characters, both adults and children, are racist -- they're not likable, and their racism is part of their nastiness.


Mentions of tampons, bras, sperm. A major plot point revolves around an adult who has what is referred to as a "love child."


A few uses of "crap." Plus "butt," "butthead," "God," "snot," "buttolgy," "shut up," "sucks," "turd." Derogatory racial names are also used: "Burrito Boy" for Matteo and "Martin Luther King" for Walk. 


Many products and stores are mentioned, including Snickers, Nike, Nordstrom, Nintendo, Amway, Seventeen Magazine, Krispy Kremes, Costco, Fritos, Ruffles, Burger King, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Sylvia quit smoking but relapses once in the story. Walk catches her smoking and she quickly stamps out the cigarette. Johnny Walker is also mentioned.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, by Newbery Honor-winning author Gennifer Choldenko (Al Capone Does My Shirts) is the story of a girl who's starting seventh grade at an upscale private school and having trouble fitting in. It deals with some mean-girl issues. Also, part of the plot revolves around a "love child," and some secondary characters are racist.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 6 and 8-year-old Written bypeony April 9, 2008

Appealing; but protagonist's disordered eating is a concern

Appealing and enjoyable. Some unlikable characters show race and class prejudices. The "love child" plot component might be more unsettling for som... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old October 21, 2013
Kid, 11 years old February 2, 2012

If a tree fall at lunch period

its a really good book its fast paced and surprising i thinks its more for girls though its one of the best books i read i wish there was a sequel to it i wold... Continue reading

What's the story?

Kirsten is entering seventh grade at an upscale private school, and nothing's going right. Her parents aren't speaking to each other, her best friend, Rory, has abandoned her for the mean social queen bee of their grade, and she's gained 30 pounds in the past few months. But on the first day, she meets new kid Walk -- one of the very few African Americans at her school -- and they soon strike up a friendship. Kirsten's mother isn't happy about this new friendship and advises her to "be one of the crowd." Perhaps a new pair of boots from Nordstrom will help. But when a shocking family secret -- the source of the friction between her parents -- is revealed, it's Kirsten's good heart and common sense that will pull them through.

Is it any good?

Newbery Honor-winning author Gennifer Choldenko knows how to draw readers in and keep them there. Kirsten and Walk are winning protagonists (and Kirsten's voice is snappy-funny), the short alternating chapters keep readers wanting more, and, just when you think you know where it's all going, there's a big coincidence that adds a fascinating level of complexity. For a book with so little action, it's awfully hard to put down.

Alternating chapters focus on Kirsten (told in first person) and Walk (told in the third person), but somehow it all works.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the issue of fitting in is shown in If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period. How far would you go to fit in?

  • Is it possible to get along and be happy in middle and high school and be yourself at the same time?

  • Have you read Gennifer Choldenko's popular series that starts with Al Capone Does My Shirts? How does this book compare? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love middle school stories and books that deal with bullying

Themes & Topics

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