Deep Down Popular

Deep Down Popular

4.1 54
by Phoebe Stone

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6th-grader Jessie Lou is deeply, madly, passionately in love with Conrad Parker Smith. Too bad she's a tomboy with only one on-again, off-again friend, and hair so short you can't spit on it. Too bad he's the most popular boy in their small-town school.

But then Conrad hurts his leg and suddenly can't keep up with his old pursuits anymore. Jessie Lou and Conrad

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6th-grader Jessie Lou is deeply, madly, passionately in love with Conrad Parker Smith. Too bad she's a tomboy with only one on-again, off-again friend, and hair so short you can't spit on it. Too bad he's the most popular boy in their small-town school.

But then Conrad hurts his leg and suddenly can't keep up with his old pursuits anymore. Jessie Lou and Conrad start spending a lot more time together, but she can't help wonder -- is she just a substitute friend? And will Conrad forget her when his leg brace comes off and he's king of the school once again?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

This feel-good tale about the social pecking order of tweens in rural Virginia has likable characters and a positive message, but its persistent down-home twanginess gets downright annoying at times. Jessie Lou Ferguson, a poem-writing tomboy who chops off hunks of her hair when she's piqued, secretly adores Conrad Parker Smith, the "it" boy of Cabanash County Elementary. Conrad's popularity unconvincingly plummets when he injures his leg, throwing Jessie and Conrad together. A lackluster mystery provides reason for Jessie and Conrad, plus an amusing sidekick named Quentin, to meet each day for a new adventure. Though the pervasive theme of popularity and the idea that "keeping on the right side of the crowd can be tricky and unpredictable" may resonate with readers familiar with the "in crowd," Stone's (All the Blue Moons at the Wallace Hotel) characters don't seem authentic. Her sixth-grade girls are old enough to covet the attention of boys, yet still wear fairy wings to school before a party. And Jessie Lou's small-town Southernness ("I hauled off with a nice big old pair of scissors and cut my hair practically down to the bone.... so short, you couldn't spit on it") comes close to cliché. Add a sluggish pace and readers may find that, like the muddy banks of the Cabanash River, this book is hard to plow through. Ages 9-12. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Jessie Lou has few friends. Her gorgeous older sister will be competing in the Apple Blossom Junior Teen Beauty Pageant. But Jessie Lou understands popularity because of her crush on popular Conrad Parker Smith. She is outwardly mortified while secretly glad to be the one to help him when he struggles with an injured leg. For years Conrad has been part of an "in" crowd, but this year, with his leg in a brace, popularity has proven to be fickle. Conrad, Jessie Lou and a crazy fourth grader, Quentin Duster, embark on an unexpected friendship in this sweet novel for younger adolescents. Jessie Lou is a tomboy, more at home in black high-top sneakers and flannel shirts than in dresses or girls' fashions, but she is sensitive and writes poetry in her journal on the porch of a deserted house. When the three kids stumble upon a high school student working on "something" in a field near the old house, they just have to find out what is going on. The story explores the many varied and complicated aspects of status and fame, from large commercial stores taking away hometown business to the media-darling doctor and experimental surgery. In the end, though, readers will better understand what it means to be "deep down popular" in the truest, most personal sense of the term. Age Range: Ages 12 to 15. REVIEWER: Janis Flint-Ferguson (Vol. 42, No. 1)
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
This is a sweet story about 6th-grade tomboy Jessie Lou Ferguson, who has a crush on the most popular boy in school, Conrad Parker Smith. Hers is destined to be unrequited love, until Conrad has to start wearing a metal leg brace and the teacher assigns Jessie Lou to help him carry books back and forth to school. Jessie is somewhat wiser than her years, quietly observing the fickleness and failings of family and friends and secretly writing poems that just seem to bubble out of her. At least, she thinks her writing activities are secret—until her older sister, a contestant in the competition for the title of "Apple Blossom Junior Teen Beauty Queen" asks to read one of Jessie's poems as her own work in the pageant. Jessie and Conrad become after school pals, often accompanied by 10-year-old hyperactive Quentin, who is secretly in love with Jessie—quite the strange love triangle. They are all engaged in solving a mystery surrounding an old biplane, an abandoned house, and the opening of the new shopping center, which will drive the local hardware store out of business. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 4-6- "I had stars all over my reading notebooks and stars all over my report cards and nobody I could really call a friend." So says sixth-grader Jessie Lou, a gawky, insecure tomboy with a longtime crush on "deep down popular " classmate Conrad. His popularity wanes when he hurts his leg and has to wear a brace, and before long he's down to only two friends: Jessie and tagalong fourth-grader Quentin Duster. Narrated by Jessie, this contemporary story is set in West Taluka Falls, VA. The various elements include the arrival of a shopping mall (will the beloved local hardware store be knocked out by the new Big Box Home and Hardware?), Jessie's older sister's entry in a beauty contest, a Lewis and Clark assignment at school, an air show, tulip bulbs, an abandoned house where Jessie writes poetry, a granddaddy who does jigsaw puzzles of the presidents, and the eccentricities of Jessie's family and friends. If this seems like a lot going on, it is. Some of it is interesting, and Stone's writing is often rhythmic and colorful ("There's a fine line between a fourth grader and a baby and Quentin Duster just crossed that line"). But the protagonist's voice is at times stilted, and the rambling plot sometimes moves slowly. For a realistic novel about small-town life in the South, try Deborah Wiles's Each Little Bird That Sings (Harcourt, 2005).-Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL

Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Negotiating her way in and out of the popularity contest that is sixth grade, Jessie finds herself and some true friends. She is wise enough to know from the start that most of her classmates are on-again/off-again friends and sometimes it's hard to tell what each day will bring. Conrad, the most popular, admired boy in school, has been the object of her unrequited love since second grade. When Conrad falls victim to a mysterious illness that leaves him limping and weak, his popularity seems to diminish. Jessie establishes a tentative friendship with Conrad and a younger boy who is also somewhat of an outsider. Stone incorporates a loving family, small-town life with several eccentric inhabitants and even a bit of mystery into Jessie's story. At times it's a bit of mishmash, but the side stories are delightful and Jessie is such an engaging, innocent/wise character, that the reader will forgive all, especially as there is a lovely, happy ending. Sweet and winning. (Fiction. 9-12)
Sarah Nickow
Conrad Parker Smith defines popularity at Cabanash County Elementary School, and Jessie Lou Ferguson has silently loved him since second grade. When Conrad shows up to school with a metal brace on his leg, Jessie's teacher selects her to help make sure he gets home safely. This time together, combined with Conrad's injury-induced decline in popularity, paves the way for an unexpected friendship filled with laughter and adventure. They discover abandoned houses, old barns, unknown machinery, and get involved in a plan to save the town hardware store. When Conrad decides to undergo surgery, Jessie fears that his recovery will mean the return of his popularity and the end of their friendship. As sixth-grade graduation approaches, Jessie tries to figure out how to fill the empty self-portrait hanging on the classroom wall. Phoebe Stone creates a loveable character with a kind heart and a poetic soul. Reviewer: Sarah Nickow

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Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.92(w) x 5.30(h) x 0.72(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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