Yesterday, I managed to finish one more of next year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees. (That brings my grand total to five…out of twenty.) This latest read was Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel, and, though the protagonist is a 4th grader, I think the story itself will resonate with readers in older grades as well.
Let’s jump right in…
Lucy is pretty secure in her status as one of the most popular girls in the 4th grade, but her best friend Becky convinces her that kissing Tom Lemmings at recess will really make her cool. Lucy reluctantly agrees, and that action may just cost her dearly.
After the ill-fated kissing incident, Lucy quickly finds herself moving from the top of the heap in 4th grade to the bottom. Tom is no longer her boyfriend, Becky is being mean to her, and the other kids are laughing at her. And her situation at home isn’t much better. Her new baby sister has Down Syndrome, and Lucy’s parents are totally focused on the baby. They don’t seem to care at all about Lucy anymore. She feels all alone and doesn’t know who she can turn to.
Lucy eventually finds an ally in quiet Sam Righter. The two share a table at lunch and work together on a class project about wolves. Through this project, Lucy compares the behavior of wolf packs to the treacherous world of school life. She looks at the actions of alphas, lone wolves, and how the weak or different are treated in wolf packs. The similarities between wolves and the kids in her world are striking, and Lucy thinks about how she could form her own pack. A pack of dorks.
As Lucy learns more and more about wolves and grows closer to the other outsiders at school, she also thinks about her own behavior. Maybe she was not-so-nice in the past. She doesn’t want to be that way anymore, and she really doesn’t want her little sister to be the target of bullies just because she’s different.
Can Lucy change her ways and become the person she wants to be? Will her “pack of dorks” be able to stand up to the bullies that torment them? Will Lucy find her place at school and within her own home?
How will Lucy’s home and school situations be resolved? Find out when you read Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel!
In addition to being an excellent book for addressing topics like bullying, respecting differences, and handling conflict, I think Pack of Dorks is also great for teaching the concept of voice. Lucy’s voice in this book is engaging and authentic, and I feel that many readers–no matter their ages–will respond to that. (Lucy is kind of snarky…like so many readers I know.) This wonderful book would make an excellent read-aloud in upper elementary and middle grade classrooms, and I’m already thinking of students and teachers who will adore it.
If Pack of Dorks sounds like the book for you, there’s more awesomeness to come. The sequel, Camp Dork, will be out on May 3rd. I’ve already added it to my next library order, and I look forward to reading it when it comes in.
With that, I bid you adieu for today. Hopefully, I’ll be back soon. My Spring Break begins today at 3:00 sharp, and I’m planning to read as much as possible. Join me, won’t you?