Imagine being a 4th grade girl who comes from a not-so-great home that includes three intimidating, sometimes mean older brothers, a father who drinks too much, and a mother who has run off. Imagine trying to tell a story based on the techniques your 4th grade teacher has given you. Oh, the story that you want to tell? Well, it’s about Larger-Than-Life Lara who is the new kid in school. Lara is so large that she doesn’t even fit in her desk; the teacher has to bring in a separate table for her and a separate desk.
Such is the premise of the excellent young adult novel, Larger-Than-Life Lara by Dandi Daley Mackall.
Laney Grafton is a 10 year old 4th grader who is the narrator of the story. Her life hasn’t been easy; she’s responsible for the cooking and grocery shopping for her family, and she alludes to the social worker who visits her family. At school, she’s often teased and called a hillbilly kid. So when Larger-Than-Life Lara starts in the middle of the school year, Laney doesn’t like to see how Lara is teased, but she is glad she’s not the one being teased anymore.
But, Laney starts to feel bad that Lara is being teased because every time Lara is cruelly teased, she responds with a smile and a beautiful poem she spontaneously creates. When the class bully, Joey Gilbert, sends her a mean note calling her a fat pig, the teacher wants to send Joey to the principal’s office, but Lara asks to speak to him instead. She says:
Hey, Joey Gilbert, thanks for the note.
In a class clown election, you’d get my vote.
I watched you pitch, and I think you’re great.
But you’ll get more power if your arm is straight.
However, perhaps because she responds so sweetly, the kids gear up for an even bigger way to tease Lara, with an action that can’t be taken back.
A fun part of this book is that Laney writes it using her teacher’s discussion of how to write a good story, so chapters are titled, “Villain,” “Setting,” “Climax,” etc.
This is a great book for the middle school set and teaches powerful lessons about bullying and remorse.
On the Mom’s Plans’ scale, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Books. All opinions are my own.