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The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.

4.6 18
by Kate Messner

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In the mountains of rural Vermont, fall is a season of beauty and transformation . . . but not for Gianna Z. With less than one week to collect twenty-five leaves for a science project, her spot at cross-country sectionals is in serious peril. Plus with a dad who runs a funeral parlor out of the basement, a grandma who keeps losing her teeth, and a rival trying to


In the mountains of rural Vermont, fall is a season of beauty and transformation . . . but not for Gianna Z. With less than one week to collect twenty-five leaves for a science project, her spot at cross-country sectionals is in serious peril. Plus with a dad who runs a funeral parlor out of the basement, a grandma who keeps losing her teeth, and a rival trying to steal her spot on the team, Gee just wishes life could leave her alone to finish her project. But when Nonna disappears one afternoon, suddenly some things seem more important than projects and races.

Gianna Z. will have readers rooting for her-and maybe even for science projects-from the very first page of this funny and poignant novel about family, friendship, and being true to yourself.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
For those of us who never really had trouble staying "on task" (I am not talking about simple procrastination), this book is an eye-opening look at what ADD children go through. Gianna is a bright, artistic, kind seventh-grader. She is on the cross-country team, and running seems to be the only thing she really likes doing this school year. In English class, she can do the reading, and she is even beginning to like poetry. In math class, she does the assignments, but what about science? That is a problem—there is a major science project, with guidelines and due dates for every part of it, including the final presentation. There is plenty of time, right? How hard can it be to collect twenty-five different kinds of leaves? Gianna is about to find out. She soon learns that science will not be her only problem this year. Her father is the director of a small funeral home, and when he drives her to school in the hearse, she gets teased unmercifully. One of the girls on the track team, Bianca Rinaldi, claims that if Gianna fails science then Bianca will take her place in the regionals. Gianna is not the only victim of Bianca's vicious tongue. Ruby, whose family has nearly no money, is wearing a pair of "days of the week" underpants—not only is she still wearing pants that everyone else gave up in second grade, but she is wearing the Tuesday pants on Wednesday. To an adult, of course, this means less than nothing, but Ruby goes home to change her pants and does not return to school. Of course, Bianca mocks this, too. Gianna stands up for Ruby, thus sealing her fate: Bianca will think of something really devastating to punish her. Meanwhile, Gianna's grandmother, who lives with thefamily, is having some memory troubles, and does not seem as sharp as she used to be. Her mother denies that anything is wrong at all—everyone's life would be simpler if only Gianna would pay more attention and do better in school. What will it take to get her to face reality? We cannot wait to find out! Gianna is such a sympathetic character that the reader's heart goes out to her. This book is highly recommended. Reviewer: Judy Silverman
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Seventh-grader Gianna Zales loves art and cross-country running. She is not so crazy about research projects or anything involving time-management skills, and has somehow gotten to within a week of the due date of a huge science assignment with no work to show. But how hard can it be to find and catalog 25 different varieties of leaves—especially in Vermont, where Robert Frost was inspired to write "Birches" and countless other poems about nature. However, family obligations keep interfering. Her father runs the town's funeral home, but even a close proximity to death can't prepare her for her own grandmother's decline. Suddenly, Nonna is forgetting everything. Also, Coach Napper has told Gianna that she must bring her science grade up to participate in sectionals, and beautiful, arrogant Bianca would love to take her place as the team's star runner. Gianna's mother means well, but is struggling with Nonna's failing health. Youngsters will find much to relate to in this likable protagonist's struggle to balance family and academic commitments. While it is no surprise when it all comes together in the end, plot twists keep readers engaged, and Messner's warm and humorous tone will capture even reluctant readers.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A beloved grandmother is failing. A school project looms-and not completing it has dire consequences (in this case, not being able to participate in an important track meet). Spoiled rich girls torment their classmates, including the narrator, while a nerdy friend who's a boy starts to look a little bit like he has boyfriend potential. None of the elements of this middle-school story is really new, but first-time author (and longtime middle-school teacher) Messner succeeds in creating an engaging saga all the same. If there's a flaw, it's that the narrative is so realistic that it's chock-full of incident and details-and occasionally predictable. But jazzing up the plot with a riddle-loving younger brother, making Gianna's family proprietors of a funeral home and sprinkling in a hearty helping of references to art and poetry keep things interesting. An ending that's hopeful without being saccharine is another big plus. (Fiction. 9-12)

Product Details

Walker & Company
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
710L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Kate Messner is a debut author on Walker's list. She has a picture book and a chapter book series both scheduled for publication in 2010. She teaches junior high in Plattsburgh, New York, where she lives with her husband and two children.

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The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. is about a girl named Gianna Z. an amazing runner but not an amazing grade getter. Gianna's grandmother Nonna can't remember where she left things like her purse, when they found it, it was in the fridge and that worries Gianna a lot!!!! But Gianna has other problems if she doesn't finish her leaf project, collect 25 leaves before next Monday, she can't go to sectionals and that means she can't race. Then Bianca will race and who wants that not Gianna. Can Gianna go to sectionals and will her grandmother be alright? With Zig on her side, ruby and don't forget her family let's hope Gianna can!!! I would recommend this book to friend because it explains that even if there's problems in life if your heart says do it then do it. If you have to finish this project you have to and that you mix something that you can mix one thing that you love and for instance homework and have fun throughout!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book so much! Sometimes I felt so bad for Gianna, and other times, I felt so happy for her. You can never expect what will happen to her, which makes this such a good read! I would recommend this for anyone in 5th to 7th or 8th grade!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A lovable book youll cherish forever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book caught my attention because my name is Gianna. I bet Gianna is beautiful and smart just like me! I bet she is funny like me too. She is probably the world's best character. Like how I am the world's best person. Tee hee!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The books a good book, you just have to get into the book, i recomend this book for age groups 9-12
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
If Gianna Zales doesn't finish her seventh-grade leaf collection project in time, her spot in the cross country sectionals will be filled by her nemesis. Though she had plenty of time to do the project, Gianna left it until the last minute. It doesn't help her state of mind that her father drives her to school in a hearse, her grandmother keeps forgetting things, and her mother pretends like nothing is wrong. This fall will be a disaster if Gianna can't pull it together and take her project all the way to the finish line. The warm-up stretched just the right muscles so I was ready to take on the smooth cross country pacing of the novel. I trotted happily along through Gianna's story and enjoyed the scenery along the way. The emotional hills and valleys gave me a satisfying workout, and the cool down in the end made for a perfect run. Messner not only reached the finish line with THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z., she won the gold and the crowd went wild.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book sucked but i only gave it five stars because thats my name
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think that this is a sstory about a young girls life and how she should start paying more atemtion in school