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Release Date
February 04, 2020
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Isaac's sixth grade year gets off to a rough start.

For one thing, a tornado tears the roof off the school cafeteria. His mother leaves on a two month business trip to China. And as always. . . . there's the itch. It comes out of nowhere. Idiopathic, which means no one knows what causes it. It starts small, but it spreads, and soon--it's everywhere. It's everything. It's why everyone calls him Itch--everyone except his best friend Sydney, the only one in all of Ohio who's always on his side, ever since he moved here.

He's doing the best he can to get along--until everything goes wrong in the middle of a lunch swap. When Sydney collapses and an ambulance is called, Itch blames himself. And he's not the only one. When you have no friends at all, wouldn't you do anything--even something you know you shouldn't--to get them back?

Drawing on her own experiences with idiopathic angioedema and food allergies, Polly Farquhar spins a tale of kids trying to balance the desire to be ordinary with the need to be authentic--allergies, itches, confusion and all.

For everyone who's ever felt out of place, this debut novel set in the Ohio heartland is a warm, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking look at middle school misfits and misadventures. Whether you root for the Buckeyes or have no clue who they are, you'll be drawn into Itch's world immediately. This engaging debut is perfect for fans of See You in the Cosmos and Fish in a Tree.

Editor review

1 review
#OwnVoices struggle with a skin condition
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Plot/Characters/Writing Style
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Isaac is not native to rural central Ohio, but he and his family have managed to settle in. His best friend, Sydney, has severe food allergies, but Isaac (who is called Itch by some of his classmates) is very protective of her. Isaac's nickname comes from a skin condition he has that results in a horrific itch, often causing him to scratch his skin raw. Sixth grade gets off to a rocky start when a tornado destroys part of the school, but classes start on time, and Itch is thrown into all of the middle grade drama. There is a new boy, whom they call Homer, who is even more unaware of the local worship of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team, and who carries an Epi-Pen for his own food allergies. Itch works at a pheasant farm, and is dealing with the fact that his mother is working in China and won't be home for months. When students share food in the school cafeteria (which is against the rules for good reason), Sydney ends up in the hospital with an allergic reaction, and Itch thinks it is his fault. So does Nate, who bullies Isaac, giving him a black eye, relentlessly bothering him, and even asking for a pheasant. Isaac feels guilty and doesn't visit Sydney, but tries desperately to get a bird to Nate, thinking that this would make things okay. Itch does get put on some new medication in hopes that it will help his condition. He manages to steal a bird, but will it make Nate happy? Will he be able to repair his relationship with Sydney? And how will it affect his job?
Good Points
I loved the rural Ohio setting, and the details about Buckeye worship will make my students really happy. It is also great to see #ownvoices representation of Isaac's skin condition and severe food allergies. (I'm willing to count the parent of children with allergies as #ownvoices!) This was a great length, moved along quickly, and had some good classroom drama.

We're starting to see a lot more books that deal with a variety of medical conditions. It helps students build empathy when they can get an intimate look inside the struggle of someone their own age. Readers who liked Alyson Gerber's Braced and Focused, Harrel's Wink, and Flake's The Skin I'm In will find Isaac's experiences dealing with his persistent itch to be a good window into how their own life would be different if faced with similar circumstances. His guilt over Sydney's allergic reaction will be appreciated by readers of books like Graff's Lost in the Sun or Northrop's Plunked, where children have to deal with the consequences of their actions.

Isaac has a lot of other issues to deal with; moving, keeping a job, and dealing with his home situation, so this adds some more layers of interest to his story.
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