Reviews for Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

Booklist Reviews 2007 March #2
Supremely logical Emma-Jean has little in common with her seventh-grade classmates, and she observes their often-tumultuous social interactions with a detached, scientific curiosity. But when kindly Colleen seeks her advice in dealing with the school's resident mean girl, Emma-Jean is moved to apply her analytical mind--and a bit of desktop forgery--to aid her classmate. Pleased with the initial results of her meddling and a newfound sense of belonging, Emma-Jean sets out righting the everyday wrongs of middle-school life with some surprising success. Told from the alternating viewpoints of ultrarational Emma-Jean and sensitive, approval-seeking Colleen, a few key events of the story seem implausible, such as a shady car dealership exchanging a new car for a lemon after receiving one of Emma-Jean's flimsy forgeries. Still, the story ends on an inspiring up note, with Emma-Jean attending her first school dance and developing tentative friendships with her fellow classmates, which should please fans. ((Reviewed March 15, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Fall
Hyper-rational seventh-grader Emma-Jean doesn't understand her classmates' illogical behavior. After helping nice Colleen, Emma-Jean decides to continue her interpersonal interventions. Inevitably, the more she meddles in others' lives, the messier hers becomes. Emma-Jean's voice is consistently formal and removed even as she takes her first steps toward integrating heart and head. This gently probing book tackles tween-relevant issues with sensitivity and skill. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #2
Hyper-rational seventh-grader Emma-Jean doesn't understand her classmates' illogical, unpredictable behavior and has always distanced herself from their "messy" lives. But when nice Colleen Pomerantz asks her for help one day (Colleen is having trouble with queen bee/mean girl Laura Gilroy), Emma-Jean approaches the problem "like a puzzle that [she] had to solve." Enjoying her success (she fakes a letter that tempts Laura to forego the problematic weekend ski trip with Colleen's best friend), Emma-Jean decides to continue her interpersonal interventions, solving a mystery about missing candy and attempting some doomed matchmaking between her favorite teacher and her widowed mother's lodger. Inevitably, the more she meddles in others' lives, the messier her own becomes. First-time novelist Tarshis keeps Emma-Jean's voice consistently formal and removed (think Star Trek's Mr. Spock) even as Emma-Jean takes her first small steps toward integrating heart and head. A related narrative thread, in which Colleen finds the courage to stand up to Laura Gilroy, unfolds believably, if more conventionally. Not merely a younger, milder Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, this gently probing book tackles some tween-relevant issues with sensitivity and skill. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 January #2
At the beginning of this incisively voiced story, Emma-Jean Lazarus, a self-possessed but socially isolated seventh-grade girl, has no friends her own age. In fact, Tarshis's winning heroine views her classmates as an anthropologist might, observing them with great interest, but not really getting their strangely irrational behavior. And they, in turn, view her as simply strange. This begins to change when Emma-Jean comes across classmate Colleen Pomerantz sobbing her heart out in the bathroom. Colleen needs help in dealing with a girl bully, or as Emma-Jean sees it, the alpha chimp of Colleen's social set. Emma-Jean decides that she'll help Colleen and, later, others by utilizing the reasoning of her deceased father's hero, the illustrious mathematician Jules Henri Poincaré. However, emotions have a way of defying logical analysis, and after a while, Emma-Jean discovers that she's become entangled--not only with peers, but with friends. The comic juice in the story comes from Emma-Jean's hyper-rational yet totally skewed take on reality, and her evolution from analyst to actor makes for a captivating, highly satisfying read. (Fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 February #1

Through a compelling third-person narrative, first novelist Tarshis completely inhabits the character of an eccentric seventh-grader who will quickly win over readers. Emma-Jean Lazarus misses her father, who died two years ago and from whom she inherited an analytical mind. She does not always understand her "often irrational" peers and finds their lives "messy." She "thus made it her habit to keep herself separate, to observe from afar." One day, however, she discovers kind, sensitive Colleen in the girls' bathroom and decides to come to her aid. (The narrative occasionally shifts to Colleen's perspective, offering insight into how the heroine comes across to her classmates.) Emma-Jean takes her cue from the philosophy of Jules Henri Poincar (a French mathematician whom her late father revered), who believed that "even the most complex problems could be solved through a process of creative thinking." Her well-intentioned efforts with Colleen and with others don't always hit their mark, but this slightly socially awkward, big-hearted outsider learns from her experiences. Other fully realized characters who show compassion and understanding to Emma-Jean include her mother, a wise and kind custodian, her teacher and especially Vikram, a doctoral student and the Lazaruses' boarder, who takes on a special significance to both mother and daughter. Readers will cheer on Emma-Jean as she begins to see more clearly and enter more fully the world around her, messiness and all. Ages 8-up. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2007 April

Gr 5-7-- Intellectually gifted but socially aloof from her seventh-grade peers, Emma-Jean is nonetheless happy with her life. She has positive relationships with several adults, a number of interests to pursue, and the memory of her late father to inspire her. Her life inexorably changes after a chance encounter with a classmate leads her to become a problem-solver without realizing the ripple effect that her actions will have. Readers will be fascinated by Emma-Jean's emotionless observations and her adult-level vocabulary (e.g., palliative). Tarshis pulls off a balancing act, showing the child's detachment yet making her a sympathetic character. Exceptionally fleshed-out secondary characters add warmth to the story, including the school janitor who unobtrusively resolves all manner of middle school drama. The plot meshes well with the setting, a close-up of school social life. Future Jane Austen fans will appreciate the subtle humor, minute observations, and snapshot of the unwritten class structure that governs 12-year-old behavior. Get this into the right hands by recommending it as a read-aloud for kids lucky enough to be read to in later elementary or early middle school.--Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL

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