If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period

Common Sense Media says

Engrossing story of fitting in at private school.





What parents need to know

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

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

Not applicable

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

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.

Parents say

Kids say

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Gennifer Choldenko
Genre:Family Life
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:September 1, 2007
Number of pages:216
Read aloud:10
Read alone:11

This review of If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

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Parent of a 6 and 8 year old Written bypeony April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

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 some readers than others. My main concern, however, is on the very likable girl protagonist's disordered eating: she sneaks and hides junk food and has not only put on 30 pounds, but is ashamed to have others know or see what she's been eating. While it's a plausible character and plot point so it makes sense in the story, it nevertheless concerns me as a behavior model, especially as this character is so likable. I'd think long and hard about a girl reader's own body image, and any proclivity towards disordered eating, in deciding whether to recommend the book.
Kid, 12 years old April 21, 2009


this is the best book i have every read. . . i loved reading it for the first time I love to read gross books and realistic books . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . YOU SHOULD READ IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU WILL LOVE IT. . . AND IF YOU DON'T YOU'RE WEIRD!
Kid, 10 years old November 7, 2009

Read this please, but not 9 and under

I really loved this book. I don't think kids under ten should read it though. BUT, I loved this book!!!
What other families should know
Great messages


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