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 fitting in at private school.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 7 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Several secondary characters, both adults and children, are racist -- they're not likable, and their racism is part of their nastiness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some of the kids at school are truly mean and cruel, and many of the adult figures in the story are disconnected and ineffectua

Violence
Sex

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

Language

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. 

Consumerism

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 many products are mentioned by name, most of them junk foods (from Snickers to Krispy Kreme to Burger King). 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, 10 years old August 25, 2010

good enough

to keep me entertained, good for tweens and up
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?

Entering seventh grade at her upscale private school, nothing's going right for Kirsten. 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 last 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's 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?

This shouldn't work. First of all, the "fat girl abandoned by friend for popular mean girl" plot has been done -- to death. Second, the story hinges on an unlikely melodramatic coincidence that comes out of left field. Add in an awkward structure of alternating chapters about Kirsten and Walk -- the former in first person, the latter in third -- and you should have a mess.

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

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the issue of fitting in. 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?

Book details

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