Third Grade Angels

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Third Grade Angels
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Release Date
September 01, 2012
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The long-awaited prequel to the bestseller FOURTH GRADE RATS

George, aka "Suds," has just entered third grade, and he's heard the rhyme about "first grade babies/second grade cats/third grade angels/fourth grade rats," but what does this mean for his school year? It means that his teacher, Mrs. Simms, will hold a competition every month to see which student deserves to be awarded "the halo" - which student is best-behaved, kindest to others, and, in short, perfect. Suds is determined to be the first to earn the halo, but he's finding the challenge of always being good to be more stressful than he had anticipated. Does he have to be good even outside of school? (Does he have to be nice to his annoying little sister?) And if Mrs. Simms doesn't actually see him doing a good deed, does it even count?

A warm, funny return to elementary school from master storyteller Spinelli.

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2 reviews
Simply Sweet
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Jerry Spinelli can be counted to write heartfelt stories about good kids and their simple lives. THIRD GRADE ANGELS, the prequel to FOURTH GRADE RATS, is no exception. This easy novel follows the adventures of Suds and his friends in their quest to earn halos from their teacher, Mrs. Simms.

While the premise is light, the novel brings up the question of if a child should do what is right, even if no one is watching. Ever the teacher, I am excited to see integrity being discussed in such a simple and relatable way. Speaking of teachers, I have to applaud Spinelli for always creating realistic educators in his books. Mrs. Simms is the third grade teacher that everyone deserves.

THIRD GRADE ANGELS is a timeless story and could have been written thirty years ago, but for a few modern additions like Suds and his mom fist-bumping, and the new kid referring to a classmate as a “hottie”. These almost felt anachronistic in the story, but will be appreciated by young readers.

Although my sixth graders wouldn’t be caught reading a book with “third grade” in the title, I will be handing this book to my friend who teaches elementary school. I know her kids will gobble it up!
Good Points
Good lessons on integrity
Jerry Spinelli is an incredible author
There's another book about the same characters, FOURTH GRADE RATS
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A halo for Mr. Spinelli!
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The world is full of ordinary kids doing ordinary things: going to school, thinking about life, playing with friends, taking baths, reading books. You know. Stuff. It doesn’t seem at first glance that there are a lot of stories hiding among those ordinary kids and their ordinary days.

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.
Good Points
Warm, funny and real
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