Eleven-year-old Nina would like more than anything to take singing lessons, but her mother wants to see an improvement in her grades first. When Nina fails another test, she retreats to the comfort of art class, and with the encouragement of a mysterious substitute teacher named Charlemagne, draws a picture of her life as she would like it—with a perfect test score. Imagine her surprise when in a matter of seconds—and with the help of a little "interference powder" provided by Charlemagne—that picture becomes reality, and that reality turns out to be less than perfect! In this delightful children’s literature debut from a well-known writer for adults, the lines of reality and fantasy are comfortably and hilariously blurred, while the importance of self-awareness comes into sharp focus.
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Jean Hanff Korelitz' adult novels include The Sabbathday River, a main selection of the Book of the Month Club, and A Jury of Her Peers. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with her husband and their two children.From School Library Journal:
Grade 4-6-The day Nina Zabin finds a luminous bottle of mysterious powder in her substitute teacher's art bag, she inadvertently wreaks havoc on her world. Suddenly, the 62 she got on her social studies test turns into a 100, and she is representing her fifth-grade class in the Brain-Busters Extravaganza. Her best friend, Isobel, always the smart one, is green with envy, while her clueless mother is pleased as punch. Resigned to losing Isobel's friendship, she tries to use the magic to get the singing lessons she so desperately wants. The day of the competition, she is unable to talk without sounding like a radio jingle or an operatic aria. Her tears cause an inexplicable flood onstage, and she runs home, mortified. Her widowed mom takes her to a child psychologist; his wise words help Nina to finally use the magic one last time to fix things. The powder's power is never really explained, but Nina ends up with her old best friend and a couple of new ones, a happy mom, and singing lessons with the substitute teacher who started it all. The novel's strands tie together in a satisfying resolution, and the singing fiasco is truly hilarious. Despite the magical element, this is largely realistic fiction about knowing oneself and being true to one's dreams.
Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools
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