Reviews for If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period

Booklist Reviews 2007 October #1
Between her parents' constant arguing and the defection of her best friend to the inner circle of A-list mean girls, the start of seventh grade is tough for Kirsten. It's no easier for her classmate Walk, who has left his inner-city school to become the only black student at an expensive private school. Kirsten's first-person narrative alternates with third-person narration centered on Walk. The two threads run side by side for awhile, occasionally touching and eventually intertwined, until they become knotted in ways that make sense only when each family owns up to its long-held secret. The author of the Newbery Honor Book Al Capone Does My Shirts (2004), Choldenko has a talent for pithy dialogue and vivid narration that brings each scene sharply into focus. With two main characters facing different challenges and several minor characters with troubles of their own, this short novel takes on a great deal and handles it pretty well, telling the story clearly and managing the shifting points of view with ease. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #5
Two students meet outside an exclusive private school the morning seventh grade begins. Kirsten is white, with a lively, self-deprecating sense of humor that's revealed through her first-person narration. Newcomer Walker is "bla -- African American," as Kirsten's status-conscious mom says, and his parts of the alternating narration are in third person. As the story begins, Kirsten is consumed by the defection of her best friend Rory (now hanging out with the mean girls), by her parents' fierce fighting, and by the significant weight she's gained. Walk's worries revolve around his conspicuousness at his almost-all-white school and the strict rules his mother imposes on him. Initially, the book seems to be a conventional school story, but two-thirds of the way through it takes a sudden twist, and all that has happened previously is seen in a new light. Choldenko explores themes of racism and wealth with subtlety and insight (as when the reader realizes just as Walk does that Kirsten is very rich and doesn't even know it). The structure can be challenging at first, with a large cast of family and friends to sort out, but the funny, thoughtful protagonists, the vivid middle-school setting, and the honest portrayal of the characters, even the adults, make it well worth the effort. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 August #2
Kirsten and Walk start the first day of seventh grade with one thing in common: They're both late. This earns them a detention together, and they strike up an easy friendship, which seems to make their mothers uneasy for some reason. Could it be that Walk is the only black kid at the very private school? Or that Kirsten shows signs of an eating disorder, has lost her best friend to the wiles of the rich and snobby Brianna Hanna-Hines and seems to have no desire to fit in with the popular crowd? Choldenko's talent for characters and conversation brings the two voices instantly to life in alternating points of view (Kirsten's chapters in first-person, Walk's in third, for a slight off-kilter feeling). The story of familiar middle-school tribulations is engaging, but fails to pick up steam until it lands in a late surprise twist. Completely without foreshadowing, it adds both gravitas and clarity to the entire story, which turns out to be about privilege, perception and the fallibility of parents. This will appeal to a wide range of middle-school readers and would make a great book-club or classroom discussion. (Fiction. 11-14) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 July #2

The latest from Newbery Honor author Choldenko is an earnest contemporary story about race, set in a California middle school. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Kirsten, the overweight daughter of a doctor, and Walk (short for Walker), son of a striving single mother, the issues raised are spot-on for this age group. Kirsten's world, micromanaged by her overly involved mother, is battered by her parents' fighting and her best friend Rory's newfound chumminess with queen bee Brianna. Walk has been separated from his friends by his mother's decision to send him to private school on scholarship. One of only three African-American students at Mountain School, his outsider status makes him approachable to Kirsten, whose falling-out with Rory leaves her in dire need of lunch-hour companionship. This under-the-microscope examination of the often cruel, always dramatic dynamics of junior high will be enough to pull many readers through to the provocative if melodramatic revelation about the real connection between Walk and Kirsten. The humor that fueled much of Choldenko's Al Capone Does My Shirts is missing here, and her choice to tell Kirsten's story in first person and Walk's chapters in third person makes the narrative a little choppy. But the questions she raises about identity, race, prejudice and the true nature of friendship should provide ample food for thought. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)

[Page 167]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2007 August

Gr 5-8-- A lack of friends and being overweight dominate Kirsten's thoughts as she enters seventh grade at Mountain, a prestigious private school in California. Rory, her good friend since kindergarten, suddenly deserts her in order to join a group of popular girls. More troublesome are Kirsten's parents, who are not speaking to each other. Her mother knows that her daughter is suffering but offers little understanding. She urges her to diet and to hang out with the girls who are rich, thin, and mean. On the first day of school Kirsten and a new boy, Walk, an African American, are both late. He already feels out of place, since he is distinctly in the minority. Both of them have to attend Saturday detention. There, Brianna, the snooty leader of the pack, gets Kirsten into serious trouble by putting the teacher's wallet into her backpack. Only Walk defends her. Alternating chapters between Kirsten's and Walk's point of view, Choldenko convincingly covers the middle school scene but does not hit her stride until the middle of the book when she drops a bombshell. The sparkling characterization and touches of humor are real pluses. Family dynamics and socioeconomics are delineated by contrasting Walk's single mom's difficult life to Kirsten's ultra comfortable life in the suburbs. Money, however, doesn't insulate Kirsten from the pain of relationships gone sour. Nor does lack of money make Walk any less brilliant in observing life around him. Racism, snobbery, prejudice, and honesty are part of the tumultuous twists that ultimately convince Kirsten that, indeed, she does matter.--Lillian Hecker, Town of Pelham Public Library, NY

[Page 112]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2007 October
Kirsten cannot wait to start seventh grade. After a lousy summer during which one of her best friends moved and her parents did nothing but fight, school will be welcomed. But the new year does not go as planned when Kirsten's remaining friend turns on her to be accepted by the popular crowd, her mother hounds her about her emotional eating and weight gain, and a new student holds the key to a shocking family secretCholdenko alternates chapters between Kirsten's first-person narration and the third-person perspective of Walk, an African American student new to Kirsten's private school and connected somehow to the reason why Kirsten's parents are fighting. Although Kirsten's voice is achingly authentic-self-deprecating and conflicted yet hopeful-the chapters from Walk's point of view seem awkward and interrupt the flow of the novel. Although Kirsten, Walk, and their classmates are barely thirteen, they seem much older. Late in the novel, Walk takes his mother's brand-new sports car for a spin without consequence, and the revelation that Kirsten's father is also Walk's father is a mature theme with which such young characters must deal. The novel touches on racism, eating disorders, and bullying, and one cannot help but feel that it would have been more memorable and compelling had Choldenko aged her characters a few years and let Kirsten tell the story in its entirety.-Vikki Terrile. 3Q 3P M J Copyright 2007 Voya Reviews.