Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

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Overview

From a debut author comes a heart-warming novel about a unique girl and her seventhgrade experiences.

Emma-Jean Lazarus is the smartest and strangest girl at William Gladstone Middle School. Her classmates don't understand her, but that's okay because Emma-Jean doesn't quite get them either. But one afternoon, all that changes when she sees Colleen Pomerantz crying in the girl's room. It is through Colleen that Emma-Jean gets a glimpse into what it is really like to be a ...

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Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree

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Overview

From a debut author comes a heart-warming novel about a unique girl and her seventhgrade experiences.

Emma-Jean Lazarus is the smartest and strangest girl at William Gladstone Middle School. Her classmates don't understand her, but that's okay because Emma-Jean doesn't quite get them either. But one afternoon, all that changes when she sees Colleen Pomerantz crying in the girl's room. It is through Colleen that Emma-Jean gets a glimpse into what it is really like to be a seventh grader. And what she finds will send her tumbling out of a tree and questioning why she ever got involved in the first place.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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 Poincaré (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.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Jennifer Mitchell
Emma-Jean is a bit different from the other seventh-grade students at William Gladstone Middle School. Emma-Jean loves to study things around her. She studies the local flora and fauna as well as her peers. She finds her classmates interesting but a bit illogical at times. In the past, she has refused to become involved in interactions with them, but a recent development with Colleen has shown Emma-Jean just how much her assistance is needed. Emma-Jean must draw on previous studies of her peers, love from her family, and a little help from Jules Henri Poincare to solve the problem. Her creative solutions work wonders, and she begins to reach out to help others. Everything runs smoothly until the school bully gets involved. Things quickly spiral out of control for both Colleen and Emma-Jean. The resulting aftermath changes things forever. This often humorous tale has some twists and turns that will surprise some readers. This gem of a book lends itself to a discussion of bullying (especially girl bullying), loss, friendship, character change, learning differences, and problem solving. This book links well with The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Secrets of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita, and Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.
Kirkus Reviews
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 Poincare. 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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803731646
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/1/2007
  • Pages: 208
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 830L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 7.38 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Lauren Tarshis lives in Westport, Connecticut.

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Interviews & Essays

What was the biggest challenge in writing your first novel?

The entire process of writing this novel was a challenge, and I tried to approach each little part as a separate learning exercise, a kind of writing workshop where I was the student and the (not very qualified) teacher. That way I didn't feel too frustrated if I worked on something for weeks and weeks only to realize that what I'd written was terrible. I just said to myself, well, I probably learned something important there and hopefully I'll do better on the next pass.

But thinking back on the many drafts I wrote, the biggest challenge was the character of Emma-Jean's father, Eugene Lazarus. In the first drafts (and there were many, many, many drafts!), Eugene was very much alive He and Emma-Jean's mother were divorced (and Emma-Jean's mother was heartbroken). He loved Emma-Jean, but didn't understand her. He was a source of distress for both Emma-Jean and her mother. As hard as I tried, I could never "feel" Eugene the way I felt all of the other characters. He always seemed out of place, like a guy who'd wandered into the wrong party and didn't fit in.

But then one day in the shower, I had this thought: "Eugene Lazarus is dead." I dried myself off, threw on my robe, and ran to my computer. And truly, within minutes, I understood him: that he had been a brilliant mathematician, that he had studied Poincare, that he and Emma-Jean had been kindred spirits, that he had been the love of Lisa Lazarus's life. I rewrote the book with the new Eugene, and within a few days I had the draft that was submitted to publishers. Though much of the book stayed the same, the spirit of Eugene Lazarus infused thestory with more emotion. The connection to her father provided Emma-Jean with an emotional life and depth that she lacked in earlier drafts, and a stronger link to her mother. The new Eugene, ironically, is much more alive to me than the old one.




In middle school, were you more like Emma-Jean or Colleen?




I was like Colleen in many ways. Like Colleen, I cared about everything and was always convinced that some humiliation was lurking just around the next row of lockers. My clay mug exploded in the kiln and I couldn't finish the mile in gym (though I didn't cry). Unlike Colleen, I never fell under the powers of a Laura Gilroy type. But I did have a small group of close friends and I am still in touch with all of them.

There were people like Emma-Jean in my school, people who were very content to be on the fringes of the messy middle school social scene. Like Colleen, I admired these kids. They seemed very free to me.


Was there any real-life inspiration for Emma-Jean or her "solutions" to her classmates' problems?

There was no real-life inspiration for Emma-Jean. I have known people who have some of her qualities, people of enormous intellect and character who don't move easily within the world of other people. But I didn't base Emma-Jean on anyone I know.


Emma-Jean inherited her father's love of Jules Henri Poincare. What made you choose Poincare to be such an important part of Emma-Jean's concept of herself?

Poincare had popped up in my reading over the years, and I always found him appealing. He was a rationalist with a huge heart, a bit like Albert Einstein. He was a brilliant mathematician but he understood that people and life are not logical. Though he entered the book late in the game, his theories helped me bring Emma-Jean's character into sharper focus.

What book has had the biggest impact on you and your writing?

I had learning problems when I was in elementary school, and didn't really start to read well until high school. I never read any of the middle grade classics that were popular when I was young- Harriet the Spy, Charlotte's Web, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Ten years ago, I took over as editor of Storyworks magazine, which is aimed at kids 9. In preparation for that job, I gave myself a crash course in middle grade novels. I read dozens and dozens of them, and fell in love. It was during this process that I became inspired to try to write my own stories for kids, and determined to teach myself how. There were certain books that I read over and over again as I tried to understand how stories were built, how characters evolved. My favorites were When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, by Kimberly Willis Holt, Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech, The Secret Life of Amanda K. Wood, by Ann Cameron. I'm incredibly lucky because as editor of Storyworks, I've worked with some of the greatest middle grade writers around - Roland Smith, Lisa Yee, Ann Martin, Johanna Hurwitz, Eleanora Tate, Avi, and so many others. I've learned from each of them. I've also gone back and read all those great books I wish I had been able to read when I was younger. My favorites are Charlotte's Web and The Witch of Blackbird Pond.




When you're not writing, what kind of things do you enjoy doing?

My husband and I have four children: Leo is 17, Jeremy is 14, Dylan is 9, and Valerie is 3. So when I'm not working on Storyworks or writing, I'm spending time with my family, including my mother-in-law, who lives with us, my parents and my grandmother, who live nearby, and my brother and his family. I also love being with my friends. I met my two best friends in sixth grade, and still talk to one of them almost every day.

In quite moments, I love to read. Lately I've been reading mostly about exploration and the American frontier. I enjoy biking and hiking and being outside. I do many crafts (not too well).



Could you give us a look into your next book?

I'm working on two separate projects right now, both middle-grade novels. One is a bit like Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, in that it is set in a middle school and involves two characters who connect and bring out the best in each other. The other is historical. Soon I'll need to decide which one to focus on.

Do you have any advice for young writers?

The most important advice I can offer is that writing is a craft that you can learn by practicing. If you keep writing, you will improve. Many writers are afraid of writing something bad, so they don't try or give up when their efforts don't lead to a masterpiece right away. If you work at it, you will improve. I had the opportunity to interview J.K Rowling, along with a few of my colleagues at Scholastic, just after the first Harry Potter was published in the U.S. She said that she wrote two or three novels before she wrote Harry Potter. "They were terrible," she said. But she emphasized that if she hadn't written those, she would never have written Harry Potter. So start writing now. Get those not-so-great stories out of the way so that you can get to the stories you will be proud of.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 16 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2011

    Great!

    Loved it, read it twice!!!!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2007

    Good Book

    This was an all around good book. Even though its not a very advanced read, it was enjoying anyway. Emma-Jean's character really springs to life in it. I got it for $1.00 at a book sale and it was a great deal. It wasn't outstanding, though, because it was pretty plain with words and wasn't as advanced as books that I would further enjoy.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2012

    Inspiring!

    I absolutely LOVE this book! I have read it 3 or 4 times and think all preteen girls (or boys for that matter) should read this novel.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2007

    What I Think About The Book

    I think the book was great. At first i did't like it or want to read it because it was a 6 grade project but as i read on i started to like the book alot!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2013

    Love the book

    This book was wonderful for me it is not for everyone-not at all you see the main
    chatacter lives a rather dull life but she runs into someone who is kind of a um you could callher a drama queen. Emma-Jean's only companias have beeen her pet bird and her father before her father passed away now this didnt happen in the bookso Im not spoiling anyway so Emma-Jean ishaving ahard time trying to help I guess you could say Emma-Jean is computer like. You should give this book a try thank you hopethis was helpful! Bye!! =]

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 13, 2011

    I "stole" this book from my daughter

    As an adult, I really enjoyed this book. My daughter had it in the house, and she lost it for a few days while I was reading it. Excellent characters, and great character development. Awesome plot/conflict. Now I am buying 3 copies to give to family and friends for Christmas.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2011

    Emma-jean report

    I liked it alot it was a fun book to read especially to give me heads up on what's middle schools like for next year.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2013

    I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!

    This book is great but not for boys. i would say girls 8-15

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2012

    Stupid!!!!!!!!!!!

    I absalutly hated this book well it was ok but not the best. Well nor am i now that i say this nor should i have been such an idiot because there may be little childern like ten and under even though im just 11 i think thats a little crazy beca,I LOVE ONE DIRECTION LOVE THE HAIR ZAYN/OFF OF ONE DIRECTION =KIND OF CUTE!!! BUT SOMEONE IS CUTIER. ONE DIRECTION IS AWESOME BUT JUSTIN BIEBER IS ALSO BUT I DONT KNOW WITCH ONE IS BETTER WILL SOMEONE TELL ME BY GOING ON THIS AND GOING TO REVIEWS AND PRESSING THE BUTTIN THAT HAS A PEN THAT ALSO HAS A + SIGN???????????????? THANX!!!!!!!! HE- HE!!

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2010

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    Posted March 10, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2010

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    Posted April 21, 2011

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    Posted April 11, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2011

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