Read-aloud time in my 6th grade class is probably my favorite part of the day. Since my classes are only 45 minutes long, I don’t have nearly as much time as I’d like to read to the kids, but somehow I squeeze it in. Since my time is limited, I am choosy about the books I decide to read. I like to find books that:
1. The kids haven’t heard of before but I know will interest them
2. Have juicy storylines and characters that the students can relate to
3. Have sequels so that reluctant readers who fall for the book have a “next” book to go when I’m finished with the original
The Schwa was Here, written by Neal Shusterman, popped up on my radar a couple of years ago. A friend introduced me to it. I’d never hear of it. She swore that this book would get even my disinterested readers reading with fervor. Upon hearing that, I quickly ordered a copy, and opened up the first day of school with Chapter One. The kids were immediately tuned in with the main character, Antsy Bonano, and his new friend, Calvin Schwa.
When Antsy and his friends Howie and Ira meet Calvin Schwa, they find him fascinating. Schwa has a gift (or is it a curse?) of being “invisibilish” to others. The boys go on a mission to see what causes the “Schwa Effect” and how it can be used to their advantage. When one of the experiments goes awry, Antsy and Schwa find themselves in hot water with the neighborhood grump, Mr. Crawley. Expected to pay for their wrongdoings, the two boys are sentenced to dogwalking and entertaining Crawley’s niece, Lexie. But their punishment turns into a series of life lessons about friendship and making a place for yourself in the world.
This book somehow manages to take a common issue many tweens and teens deal with–finding a way to “fit in”–and tackles it with humor and straightforwardness. And, it gets the message across without sounding like an Afterschool Special. My kids laugh out loud daily, and groan when I put the book up. I love that feeling!
This book has a sequel, Antsy does Time, which I haven’t read. I’m planning on ordering two copies of it this week, though, because I know when we finish the book, kids will want to hear more from Antsy Bonano.