Absolutely Almost, / Lisa Graff
Philomel ISBN 9780399164057
INT (Grades 4-6) Rating: 5
Prolific author Lisa Graff pens a novel about Albie, a fifth grader who is “almost” fitting in–and who exemplifies the many ways most people try to fit in.
In Absolutely Almost, Albie is “almost” good at tetherball, and he “almost” makes his parents proud. Starting at a new school, Albie hopes to make himself more than “almost.” When the popular kids are calling him names (“dummy,” “retard”), Albie learns to take the names and to defuse the hurt attached to them.
Because his parents work long hours, Albie has a babysitter. Calista helps him recognize that “almost” is more than he thinks it is. Once he recognizes his own self-worth, he is able to move beyond the hurts he experiences. Although his dad seems clueless most of the time, towards the end he gives some valuable wisdom to Albie after his son loses an election. He says the hard thing is “not going to be getting what you want in life, but figuring out what that is” (pg. 266). The central theme inspires one to accept the uniqueness of others, as one would want to be accepted.
Graff captures the narrative voice of a fifth grader with the use of short chapters and simple prose–even the font used in the text aids in its readability. Chapter titles are brief and the same illustration appears under each chapter title. There are one or two places where mild profanity is used (Albie’s grandpa says, “Why the h*ll not?”). One of the characters makes a brief mention of her “dads.”
Absolutely Almost has been nominated for several awards, including the ALA Notable Book for Children and the National Council of Teachers of English Charlottle Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction. Recommended for upper elementary and middle school readers. Fans of Palacio’s Wonder and Graff’s earlier book, A Tangle of Knots, will also enjoy this book.
Carol R. Gehringer
—reprinted with permission, Christian Library Journal, 2015.