Jerry Spinelli’s genius is how clearly he understands that every ordinary kid has a story worth telling—and how beautifully he tells those stories. THIRD GRADE ANGELS is about George (most people call him Suds). On the first day of third grade, George’s new teacher sets the class a goal; each week one child will earn a halo. To earn a halo, she explains, all a child has to do, is behave well: eat vegetables, be kind, act responsibly, hand homework in on time, and so on.
Some kids find it really hard to behave that well, and some aren’t even interested in trying, like the new kid, Joseph, who would rather be a rat than an angel. But George is naturally a good kid, and he wants to earn that halo. In fact, what he really wants is to be the very first official third grade angel. In the meantime, he also has to figure out how to deal with Joseph, and how to maybe even tell Judy Billings that he really likes her.
Ordinary stuff, right? Yes, but not to George, and not to Jerry Spinelli. It’s not that anything magical happens, or that there’s a dramatic confrontation between the forces of good and evil, although there is a pretty dramatic moment towards the end of the book. Nothing magical needs to happen, because George creates plenty of tension all by himself. His desire to do well, and to be recognized for doing well, is both his making, and his undoing.
This was a charming book, with far more substance than usually found in early readers. I highly recommend it.