Albie has never been the smartest kid in his class. He has never been the tallest. Or the best at gym. Or the greatest artist. Or the most musical. In fact, Albie has a long list of the things he's not very good at. But then Albie gets a new babysitter, Calista, who helps him figure out all of the things he is good at and how he can take pride in himself.
A perfect companion to Lisa Graff's National Book Award-nominated A Tangle of Knots, this novel explores a similar theme in a realistic contemporary world where kids will easily be able to relate their own struggles to Albie's. Great for fans of Rebecca Stead's Liar and Spy, RJ Palacio's Wonder and Cynthia Lord's Rules.
Praise for Lisa Graff's novels
Tangle of Knots (nominated for a National Book Award)
* "Combining the literary sensibility of E. B. White with the insouciance of Louis Sachar, Graff has written a tangle that should satisfy readers for years to come."Booklist, starred review
Double Dog Dare
"Graff's...story is lighthearted and humorous, but honestly addresses the emotions associated with divorce. Her characters' voices, interactions, and hangups are relatable, as they battle each other and adjust to their families' reconfigurations."Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: Rocks
"Not everybody can be the rock at the top of the rock pile.” That’s what my grandpa Park said to my mom once when they thought I was asleep, or just not listening, I don’t know. But my ears work fine. “There have to be some rocks at the bottom, to support those at the top.”
I sat in my bedroom, knocking the army men one by one off my windowsill. Dad said I was getting too old to play with them, so I didn’t play, just knocked them over. Plunk, plunk, plunk, on the bedspread. But I did it quiet so no one would hear. plunk . . . plunk. For some reason, I felt heavy inside, listening to them talk out in the living room. Or maybe heavy on the outside, like something was pressing down on top of me, when really it was nothing but air. plunk. plunk.
If I listened real close, I could hear Grandpa Park’s ice clicking in his glass when he lifted it to drink.
It was quiet in the living room, no talking, only ice, for a long time. When I got to the last army man, I didn’t set them up again right away. I stared at them on the bed, knocked over sideways or on their bellies. On some you could see the black marker where I’d marked their feet when I first learned to write my name. A for Albie.
It was quiet so long that I thought my mom must’ve gone to bed, and it was just Grandpa Park out there with his glass, drinking down till the ice melted like he usually did when he came to visit. But then Mom said something, so I knew she hadn’t gone to bed after all. She said it real quiet, but I heard.
“Albie’s not a rock,” she said.
What People are Saying About This
Gr 4-6–Albie, an only child living in New York City, has learning difficulties. No matter how hard he tries to give the correct change to the takeout delivery guy, or get all his spelling words correct, he inevitably fails to get it right. When readers meet the fifth-grader, he’s just left his fancy private school and is about to be the new kid at public school. His dad is mostly absent and forgetful, except when demanding that Albie try harder. His mom tells him that Dav Pilkey’s “Captain Underpants” (Scholastic) is for babies, and gives him Esther Forbes’s Johnny Tremain instead. His exacting Korean grandfather predicts that he will end up in a ditch. At school, despite some sympathetic teachers, he is bullied and teased. His only friend is Betsy, reserved and bullied herself. Things begin to change when Albie gets a new babysitter. Calista is an artist and definitely unusual: she makes a cover for Albie’s Captain Underpants that says “Johnny Tremain.” She takes him for donuts and to art exhibits and, most importantly, she likes him for who he is. Albie’s just-believable naiveté leads him into social difficulties as he is given an opportunity to be one of the “cool” kids, even though this entails abandoning his friendship with Betsy. Despite the fact that Graff is scrupulously honest in refusing to provide a conveniently happy ending, Albie comes through significant emotional hardship to a genuine sense of self-worth. Albie himself would find this book inviting at first glance: short chapters, an accessible sans serif font, and plenty of white space, and even his mom might think it acceptable for a fifth grader.
Ten-year-old New Yorker Albie is starting at P.S. 183, having been kicked out of his fancy prep school because of low grades. Albie tries hard, but he’s a middle-of-the-road (at best) student, an “almost,” as he calls it. At his new school, he starts a tentative friendship with fellow outcast Betsy, who has a stutter, and he’s buoyed by small successes in math club and on spelling tests. Most importantly, though, his new babysitter, Calista, is a sympathetic adult. Her low-key approach to confidence-boosting includes teaching him to draw superheroes and taking him to the zoo for a “sad day” after a particularly challenging day of school—which, unfortunately, leads to her dismissal. Like Kevin Henkes’s Billy Miller (The Year of Billy Miller, rev. 9/13), Albie is a sweet, vulnerable kid who just needs a little extra help and to whom readers may well relate. Short chapters—some just one page—add to the story’s accessibility and keep the pace moving. The characters are well rounded, and, gratifyingly, even Albie’s seemingly single-minded, results-driven parents come through for him in the end.
Rave reviews for Absolutely Almost!
" Graff’s gentle story invokes evergreen themes of coming to appreciate one’s strengths (and weaknesses), and stands out for its thoughtful, moving portrait of a boy who learns to keep moving forward, taking on the world at his own speed.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Achingly superb, Albie’s story shines.” - Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“…Albie comes through significant emotional hardship to a genuine sense of self-worth.” – SLJ, starred review
“Beautifully written, Albie’s story is accessible and dignified, with a gentle message that will touch any reader’s heart. Middle-grade readers will love the references to Dav Pilkey’s inexhaustibly popular Captain Underpants series, which has introduced so many children to the fun side of reading. A perfect book to share with struggling readers.” - Booklist, starred review