Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A whole new genre of books seems to have been born the day teachers started asking students to keep journals; the bland use of this journal format stamps Rocklin's (Sonia Begonia) novel with a formulaic feel. Here a substitute teacher, Mr. Moffat, inspires a sixth grade class with the poems he copies every Monday onto the chalkboard. Lucy, an eager student, fills her notebook with reactions to the poems, elliptically describes her crush on Mr. Moffat and shares her concerns about shifting friendships. In his notebook, Andy, an antisocial troublemaker, scribbles pictures of fighter planes, rarely putting down any words. Both students eventually reveal deep secrets, occasionally turning their journals into soap-opera-ish diaries ("Thursday, April 26: Someone is hurting my mother and me"). Mr. Moffat's poetry selections-superbly chosen works by Langston Hughes, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Octavio Paz and others-open each chapter and foreshadow plot developments. However moving the poems, the total effect is disjointed, and the overly neat and predictable resolutions of Lucy's and Andy's problems seem just as tired as the format. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
When the new 6th grade substitute teacher, Mr. Moffat, tells his class that they will keep a journal, most of them consider it a joke. One girl, Lucy, takes to the idea and uses it to write her innermost feelings. She writes poems as well as responding to those Mr. M. writes on the board. Excerpts from other students' journals help us form a picture of the class and their problems. The effect of poetry on the children and the thoughtfulness that results from studying another person's words make this story linger long after the book is closed.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 4-6An unusual novel set in modern-day Los Angeles. When Mr. Moffat takes over as a long-term substitute for a sixth-grade teacher out on sick leave, he gives notebooks to the class and encourages the students to write about anything they choose. He also copies a poem by a well-known contemporary poet onto the chalkboard every Monday. The novel consists of the chalkboard poems and the students' writings and artwork. The excerpts are primarily provided by Lucy and Andy, who, as the story unfolds, learn to express themselves in a variety of ways and to look within themselves and beyond the surface of their world. Lucy learns to write poetry, to find true friendship, and to accept her mother's divorced state. Andy, who at first draws only weapons and negative images of classmates, finds a way past his anger when he takes interest in a flock of wild ducks that moves into his apartment complex's swimming pool; eventually he is able to ask for help with an abusive home situation. The journals move the plot quickly along and express a range of emotions. The entries adeptly show how the characters grow emotionally as well as artistically; the writing and situations are realistic and believable.Darcy Schild, Schwegler Elementary School, Lawrence, KS
A realistic novel, in the form of a journal, made slightly above average by the author's use of poetry.
Mr. Moffat, the sixth-grade substitute teacher, asks everyone in Lucy's class to keep journals that he might read. Lucy is articulate about her rather typical concerns and activities. She lives with her divorced mother and comments upon her father's new love life. She has squabbles with her girlfriends and is tormented by Andy, a classmate who turns out to be the victim of abuse. The terrain is familiar, if not predictable. The teacher introduces the children to poems by Lilian Moore, Langston Hughes, Valerie Worth, and others, reprinted and commented upon by Lucy. She writes poetry, too, most of which seems too accomplished for her character. The poetry gives this a lift but doesn't sustain it; Andy's serious problems are dealt with too quickly and neatly.