Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Outsider:: Confessions from the Principal's Kid by Robin Mellom

To be clear, I have no desire to be at the top of the School Coolness Pyramid--if that even exists. I just want to be part of something.

Almost everyone avoids me now like I'm some sort of rat--who tells on people and uses her connections to get them in trouble. (See previous info about my mother being the principal.)

It's complicated. Allie West's mom's promotion from regular teacher to principal just happens to coincide with the ITCP--the Intense Trading Card Phase. a craze for swapping Mammal-Morph cards, led by chief nerd-boy Graham Parker, whose hand-drawn super-gecko El Guapo cards become the hottest item at recess. The rivalry's squabbles spill over into the classroom; Allie's mom has to ban the cards from the school; and when one is found in Allie's desk, she inexplicably blurts out that it belongs to her best friend, Chloe Alvarez. Allie becomes tattletale-non-grata all over the school, and poor Graham goes from superstar to the butt of everyone's jokes, especially the jibes of bully-in-chief Joel Webster. Graham is an easy target, the weird kid who carries his grandfather's clarinet everywhere he goes and apologizes to poles when he walks into them.

Now Allie West finds herself the chief Outsider. Her only friends are the custodian Frances, who lets her use the super floor polisher to secretly remove the spitballs Joel launches daily at Graham, Miss Jean, the cafeteria manager who puts her in charge of spagetti inventory, and the Afters, a motley group of teachers' kids who have to stay late after school--their leader, fourth-grader Lexa, "born with a clipboard in her hand," fifth-grade outcasts Allie and Graham, and second-grader Maddie Vicario--who meet undercover daily to play Eavesdropping Bingo and come up with Acts of Random Awesomesauce for the staff. It's definitely a group with inside information, the ones who know all the shortcuts around the school and where the snack foods are kept in each classroom.

Confession: I also know where Frances stores the extra toilet paper, and I'm embarrassed that I'm a little proud of that.

Allie's one chance to re-friend Chloe and her friends is to make the Pentagon Math Team, hoping to spend enough time with Chloe to apologize and restore their friendship. Unexpectedly, she's paired with Chloe on a project and their time together goes well. When Chloe invites her to her birthday party, Allie feels like her days as outsider are over. But then she overhears the other guests talking about her.

"So embarrassing for her," Andrea was saying. "Chloe was so bummed she had to partner with her and invite her over to work on the project."

"Does Chloe even like her?" Sophie asked.

"Who knows? I'm sure Allie's mom called to get her invited to this party, too."

I back away slowly and slip out the front door.

I'm alone. Being an insider at school--knowing the ins and outs--it all makes me an outsider.

hate being the principal's kid.

Fifth grade is complicated. Allie's relations with her parents and the kids at school are so hard to unravel. How can things go so wrong when everyone seems to be trying to do the right thing?

There comes a time when relationships stop being a smooth grassy playground and start being a playing field full of stumbling blocks, as Allie West discovers in Robin Mellom's forthcoming Confessions from the Principal's Kid (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017).

Mellom's protagonist is likable, smart, funny, honest, and yet lonely, as she tries to navigate the sudden changes in her life. Sooner or later--perhaps much later--most people find themselves somehow on the outside, looking in. Allie discovers who her real best friend is--Graham, who stopped being her friend during the school day to spare her from taking the treatment that fell on him, and from there she realizes that even complicated things make sense when seen from the other side.

Making new friends is sometimes a struggle, but it's also important to leave no one behind, she learns. Using her own experience as a principal's kid and an After herself in this strong character-driven story, Mellom's Allie helps middle readers vicariously experience some of those tangled webs we mortals weave along the way.

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