Posted by: kidsbooksreviews | April 24, 2008

All of the Above, by Shelly Pearsall

All of the Above is an instructional goldmine. The book will appeal to a wide variety of upper elementary to middle school students, and deals with a variety of issues. It tells about a group of middle schoolers attempting to break a world record by creating the largest tetrahedron ever. The students are all lower income, urban, African-American. While some students might think this means that all the characters have the same background, this book will quickly disprove that theory. Some of the things that can be taught or introduced using this book are:

Tetrahedrons and other geometric concepts

Foster families

Group work and common goals

The Vietnam War and its effect

Reading recipes and how food affects mood

Using art to express emotions

Family structures and what defines family

How drug use affects families

How vandalism affects the victims

Point of view

This story is told from the points of view of all of the major characters, and is always related in first person. For younger students or struggling readers, this might make the book excessively challenging, even when the readability is not necessarily too difficult. Possible controversial issues include child abandonment (one of the students is left to fend for herself by her foster family), drug use (always portrayed negatively in this book), and one student knows a relative is guilty of a crime but does not turn that person in. (Highlight for spoiler): One student’s brother breaks into the school and tears up the tetrahedron project. This student knows his brother is guilty, but does not tell on him.(end spoiler)

The reading level of this book is probably an upper fifth grade level. The paperback edition has a Reader’s Guide in the back.

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