Toppling

Overview

Now that John’s best friend is sick, hanging out with his pals isn’t the same. But what can they do? A kid-friendly story of silliness, sadness, and solidarity.

John lives for that satisfying clink of dominoes as they topple in a perfectly timed rhythm of his own design. His sister thinks he’s a dork, but all he cares about is setting the world record for knocking down dominoes -- that and hanging out with his best friends at school. But when his closest friend, Dom, gets sick ...

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Overview

Now that John’s best friend is sick, hanging out with his pals isn’t the same. But what can they do? A kid-friendly story of silliness, sadness, and solidarity.

John lives for that satisfying clink of dominoes as they topple in a perfectly timed rhythm of his own design. His sister thinks he’s a dork, but all he cares about is setting the world record for knocking down dominoes -- that and hanging out with his best friends at school. But when his closest friend, Dom, gets sick and ends up in the hospital, John and the gang are left behind, wondering what to do for him. Author Sally Murphy shows what a group of friends, together with an unlikely ally, will do to keep the world of one of their own from toppling.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Engaging and poignant.
—Kirkus Reviews
Children's Literature - Beverly Melasi
John lives for playing dominoes. He loves to build them and watch them topple. John especially enjoys the sounds they make and the rhythm of the clacks as they fall. He and his best friend Dom play them most every day after school. When his best friend Dom gets cancer, John feels like his whole world is toppling. He thought his friend was just sick with the flu in class when Dom's face turned as white as the dots on his black dominoes. He doesn't know what to do for him, or what to say. Dom leaves school for a while. He is very sick. When Dom is finally is able to return to school, the teacher tells them that Dom is still very weak and will look different. John and some of his other friends plan a surprise welcome-back with a special message. This book is a great read for children who either know a classmate, friend or loved one who is living with cancer. The matter-of-fact explanations and great sketches help dealing with cancer a lot less scary to read about. It is an interesting book for children and parents to read together. Reviewer: Beverly Melasi
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—In first-person free verse, John tells what he loves most: setting up and toppling his huge collection of dominoes. While his sister, Tess, and some of his classmates mock his hobby, he has unflappable confidence and takes it all in stride. "Maybe I'm not normal/but I'm happy./If Tess is normal,/then that's something I don't want to be." What helps is his solid, loyal group of close friends, including his very best bud. But then Dominic gets sick. John takes readers with him emotionally while he waits and finally learns that Dominic has cancer. Although John's social environment at school sometimes feels a bit contrived, his struggle to navigate fifth grade, be a supportive friend, and cope with the possibility of loss are authentic and tangible. Ultimately he and his friends and the rest of their class come together in a special way that allows them to see one another more clearly and to support Dominic, whose fate is unknown but hopeful. Peppered with black-and-white illustrations, this story presents an accessible look at serious illness and classroom dynamics.—Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA
Kirkus Reviews
An Australian boy obsessed with "toppling" dominoes finds his world wobbling when his best friend develops cancer. John collects domino tiles, which he arranges in long, complex patterns that he then knocks over. He'd like nothing better than "to play dominoes / all day, every day," causing his sister Tess to call him "nerd boy." John's best friend, Dominic, is "fun / and funny / and honest / and pretty cool." Other pals include smart Joseph, jokester Christian and Tran from Vietnam. John admits he's "not smart / or funny / or from far away. / I'm just me." When their fifth-grade teacher assigns individual research projects, John naturally picks dominoes as his topic, but he's soon distracted and worried when he learns Dominic has a tumor on his kidney requiring surgery and chemotherapy. Afraid his best friend may die and unsure of how to act, John tries to think of what he can do to help. In the end, he and his pals find the perfect way to give Dominic the support he needs. John gives his story immediacy and authenticity by speaking in colloquial first-person, present-tense free verse. Black-and-white illustrations capture the ups and downs of friends trying to keep their buddy from toppling. Engaging and poignant. (Verse novel. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763659219
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 8/14/2012
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 626,337
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Sally Murphy, the author of PEARL VERSES THE WORLD, also writes reviews for the Children’s Book Council of Australia. She lives with her family in rural Australia.

Rhian Nest James has illustrated more than sixty children’s books, including the Samurai Kids series by Sandy Fussell. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

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