Me and Rolly Maloo
Product Code: 91585
Binding Information: Hardback
Ages: 8 - 11
Availability: In stock
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Mariah, 4th Grade - June 1, 2010Dear Janet, Thank you for giving me the chance to read your new book Me and Rolly Maloo. Like Jenna Lee said I felt chosen for the honor of reading this book. The main reason I loved this book is that was really 4th grade drama. I highly recommend this book. I highly appreciate it. Thank you very much. Sincerely, Mariah P.S. I gave this book to my friend to read and she loves it. Thanks again!
Kirkus Reviews - June 15, 2010This innovative chapter book from a seasoned author delivers two parallel stories. During a fourth-grade math test, popular Rolly Maloo passes notes to math whiz Jenna Lee, seeking answers to tough questions. Interspersed with Jenna's straightforward account of a common dilemma is a sophisticated tale in graphic-novel format that places Jenna's story in a broader context. High-stakes testing, cash-strapped schools, principals and teachers vulnerable to pressure from politically savvy parents-all of these elements play roles. The contrast of economically disadvantaged, working moms with their affluent stay-at-home counterparts-treating the PTA as their private preserve, passing their sense of entitlement and ruthless ambition on to their children-is brutal and at times cynical. Much of this, along with Buttler's slyly revelatory illustrations, likely will sail over young heads. How adults influence children's classroom decisions is a legitimate topic, but the format is too short for nuance. Good and evil appear in vivid detail; shades of gray, not so much. Despite its flaws, this moral fable opens an important cultural conversation about privilege, a rarity in stories for children.
Booklist - June 1, 2010Rolly is the most popular girl in fourth grade. So why does she suddenly invite Jenna over? Is it because Jenna gets perfect scores on math tests? Should Jenna help Rolly cheat? Wong writes in the alternating voices of Jenna and Rolly, as well as their classmates, teachers, and parents, and it is sometimes hard to keep track of who is speaking. Still, the prose narratives, along with the pencil and digital illustrations that are sometimes laid out in comic-style panels, nicely express the characters' thoughts and feelings, alone and in the classroom. The story culminates during a math test when Rolly throws a small paper ball to Jenna with a question ("What is #8?"), and Jenna overcomes her hesitation and throws back the answer. The teacher is busy reading her email, but other kids see what is happening. Or do they? Rumors fly, and in one stand-out picture, trendy mothers babble on their cell phones in the supermarket with wild stories about Jenna's guilt. Middle-grade readers will be easily caught up in the cheating drama.
Book Dragon - June 22, 2010Janet Wong has gone literally hybrid. Her latest title, debuting next month, is part graphic novel, part regular prose. Thanks to her flexible illustrator Elizabeth Buttler, the result is an entertaining new way for young readers to enjoy a story on different levels.
Popular. Pretty Rolly Maloo is smart, but not as smart as Jenna Lee when it comes to the tougher math problems. In the middle of their math test, Jenna gets hit in her right ear with a small paper ball ... a request to cheat from Rolly and Rolly' best friend Patty Parker.
"Maybe helping Rolly Maloo with a math answer would be called charity," Jenna tries to reason with herself. "And instead of calling her a cheater, maybe you could call her someone who is smart enough to ask for help." Even though Jenna knows better, she finds herself throwing back the paper ball ... with the right answer! And when she gets caught by Mrs. Pie, her favorite teacher, Jenna insists "no one" threw her the paper ball.
Wong constructs an intricate puzzle of family and friends who eventually help Jenna find her own solutions. Meanwhile, Wong inventively manages to take on the educational system and the problems of "teaching to the test," and even takes a well-deserved jab at career-PTA moms who live over-vicariously through their less-than-perfect-children.
Wong understands well the social pressures of being the smart kid whose single mother works too hard for too little, who doesn't have a whole lot of friends, who never gets to sit at the popular table during lunch. Fourth grade can be quite a battleground, but Wong makes sure that Jenna Lee eventually figures out how to navigate the challenges with the help of real, true friends. We should all be so lucky ... in any grade, at any age!
Publishers Weekly - July 19, 2010
Wong and Buttler thoughtfully explore thorny social and ethical dynamics in this graphic novel/prose hybrid. At home with her single mother, who stuffs envelopes to make ends meet, fourth-grader Jenna is shocked when popular girl Rolly Maloo telephones her. Thanks to an opening cartoon in which Rolly contemplates calling Jenna ("Not that she's not nice. But like Mom says, she's odd"), readers will already know what Jenna suspects: it's too good to be true. Rolly, at the urging of a friend, is seeking help for a math test, and Jenna gets caught passing back a note to Rolly during a test the next day. Jenna knows cheating is wrong, but her rationalizations for helping Rolly ring true: "Maybe helping Rolly Maloo with a math answer would be called charity. And instead of calling her a cheater, maybe you could call her someone who is smart enough to ask for help." Buttler's b&w illustrations adeptly broadcast characters' emotions and substantially broaden the story's scope by revealing that adults (the students' parents and teachers) can be as cliquish and conflicted as the children.
Children's Literature - August 18, 2010Jenna Lee is smart but not popular. Rolly Maloo, in contrast, is popular. She's smart as well, just not as smart as Jenna. The tension between wanting to belong and wanting to do the right thing constitutes the heart of this quick-witted tale from poet and fiction writer Wong (author of Alex and the Wednesday Chess Club, and Twist among others). Because we know that Jenna feels fiercely about "the red-hot truth" it's a big deal when a note from the snooty Patty, passed on via Rolly, hits Jenna in the right ear during the math test. The action she takes in a moment of weakness spirals the rest of the story onward. The prose narrative is in first person, with Jenna as narrator. In addition, Buttler's interspersed graphic novel-style spreads, as well as spot illustrations liberally sprinkled throughout, offer the perspectives of many characters, including the teacher Mrs. Pie, Jenna's and Rolly's respective mothers, and sundry fourth graders worrying about the math test. The pictures also offer slants into the culture of the school including Mrs. Pie's struggles with testing imperatives from on high, and the hierarchy of the PTA. Race is never mentioned in the text, and character names are ethnically ambiguous; the depiction of characters of color is left to the illustration. Class, on the other hand, is front and center. Jenna and her mother are poor, the Maloos clearly wealthy. There is plenty to think about in this slender volume, with its fictional commentary on the nature of rumor, the dilemmas of social envy, and the politics of elementary school. Wong presents it all with her characteristically light touch and adds a sweet touch of pie at the end for good measure.
The PlanetEsme Plan - August 10, 2010Jenna Lee is a smart, math-loving fourth grader, but is frowned upon by the more popular girls in her class (and their mothers) for being slightly shabby and idiosyncratic. Queen Bee Rolly Maloo concedes to some limited friendship with Jenna, though, when it means she can ask for an answer on a high-stakes test. When Mrs. Pie busts them in the act of cheating, it is the beginning of a turn of events that can send Jenna Lee into a downward spiral...unless a few loyal classmates speak out, and a teacher in a compromising position can solve the mystery behind the misbehavior. Cheating makes for an engaging subject, but beyond that, many complex issues are addressed here with honesty, age-appropriateness and aplomb: economic class prejudice, the pressures and impact of high-stakes testing on school communities, the difference between tattling and protecting, and the effect of parental gossip. All of this is done in a completely fresh format, a hybrid of straight prose and graphic novel that wholly compliments each other; thought balloons and conversations in illustrated form sometimes alternate with the prose, other times run parallel, always offering insights, contradictions and inner thoughts of the children (of both genders), the teacher, the principal and the parents, each informing decisions that move the plot and begs the question: what would you have done? Moreover, the author does something that is very rare in children's intermediate fiction: she includes the grown-ups. Children in real life overhear what adults say, and their lives are impacted daily by the decisions large and small that adults make. Likewise, in this work of realistic fiction, young readers can see what the grown-ups are thinking, and why they do what they do...whether right or wrong. Ultimately, the conflict is resolved believably to the reader's satisfaction, even happily and hopefully as Jenna's mom finds a new start with a baking business, and manages to "stick it" to the woman who thought the worst of her daughter. At no point is the young reader underestimated here, and this is a book about decisions that is sure to be widely enjoyed for its format and widely discussed for its content. While challenging to read aloud, it's sure to create conversation, making it a a stupendous choice for book clubs and classroom sets, and an engaging read for individual fans of classroom stories and realistic fiction as well. Ultimately a tool for the empathetic imagination, in turning her talents toward the middle-grade novel, this versatile poet and picture book author has turned out the best work of her career.
BayViews - October 1, 2010When the local school district changes the rules for the annual math test so that those who fail must forego art, music, and P.E. classes in favor of two extra hours of math class, Rolly Maloo knows she’s doomed. Jenna Lee isn’t the type of person most people notice, so when popular Rolly asks for her help cheating on the test, Jenna can’t resist the chance to be on Rolly’s good side. Janet Wong creates a cast of culturally and economically diverse characters in this novel, which explores the conflict of “doing the right thing” when all you want is to be popular. Jenna’s story is told in narrative form interspersed with graphic novel-style illustrations. Wong’s characters are well developed, from fourth grade teacher Mrs. Pie, who finds her teaching methods restricted by the district, to the students forced to make difficult moral choices to the wealthy parents who defend their wayward children rather than forcing them to take responsibility for their actions. While nobody is punished for bad behavior, the reader is left knowing that ultimately the right choice comes from within.
School Library Journal - November 1, 2010Fourth-grader Rolly Maloo is pretty and intelligent but she fears she is not smart enough to win a coveted spot in a math competition. She uses her popularity to win the allegiance of Jenna Lee, who is smarter but in much lower social and economic strata. During the important test, the in-crowd gets the answers they need, and Jenna gets caught. Who is the cheater? Rolly and her friend Patty had manipulated her, and Jenna capitulated to their demands. Complicating matters are the mothers of the popular girls. Grown-up Queen Bees themselves, they are PTO powerhouses spying from the copy room and demanding action from the principal, who just wants the situation to go away. The true heroes are the other social outcasts, Shorn and Hugo (who tell what they know), and the kids' kind and fair teacher, Mrs. Pie. She cracks the case with deductive reasoning, handwriting analysis, and some very interesting "push-back" on Principal Young's efforts to appease the parents. Wong's inclusion of school administration and "helicopter" parents makes this morality play a painfully accurate portrayal of elementary school political and social dynamics. The characterizations are spot-on, and Buttler's frequent graphic-novel-style artwork and dialogue balloons emphasize reactions and emotions. The easy-reading level and heavy use of illustrations may attract an audience not prepared for the moral ambiguity displayed by the adult characters, but the story is one worth telling.
The Musings of a Book Addict - November 21, 2010I sat reading part of this book to my husband this morning when he finally got up. I told him that no book this simple should bring up such strong emotions in me, but it did. Let me start by saying it struck a nerve with me because I am a 6th grade teacher. I see bullying and unfair treatment of teachers and unfair parents all the time. Jenna is a poor girl who wears second hand clothes, Molly and Patsy are the two popular girls whose mothers are in charge of the PTO. The district test is coming up and and the winner usually competes in the county competition. That is usually Jenna. Molly and Patsy decide to get Jenna to help them cheat. When they call and invite her over, her mother tells her no. She mistakenly thinks they want to be her friend. The next day they toss a note to her asking for an answer and she helps them knowing it is wrong. Then a second balled up note flies across the room and she is caught. She doesn't tell on the girls and that is where the trouble for me began. The guilty girls mothers gossiped about the situation not knowing the whole story. By the time the story had gotten around school and finally back to the principal at home, innocent people had been pulled in and the teacher had been called and chewed out.
I kept seeing the injustice being done to students and the teacher because some thought themselves better than others. I loved the underlying story of taking kids out of PE, Art and Music to put them in a second math class instead of bringing in a tutor to help them. In our district we call that remedial math. Anyway, I loved this book.
Library Media Connection - January 1, 2011Mixing chapter book with graphic novel, Me and Rolly Maloo is going to be a sure hit with students. Jenna Lee is a math whiz. Rolly Maloo is popular. When Rolly asks Jenna to cheat on the district math test, Jenna isn't sure what to do. Honesty and friendship are explored using a variety of formats, including narrative, email, and graphics. The mixed format of the book is fun and allows the various personalities of the characters to really shine, which is helpful considering there are many characters involved for such a short book. The story has a satisfactory conclusion without getting preachy. This is a great book for students who are reluctant to read chapter books.
Booklinks Lasting Connections of 2010 - January 1, 2011Ethics are at the forefront of this appealing contemporary story anout the effects of cheating and the dangers of spreading rumors and making false assumptions. When mean girls Jenna[sic] and Patty pressure Rolly Maloo[sic] to cheat on a math test, their fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Pie, must figure out who really deserves the blame. Buttler's interior illustrations incorporate comics-style elements to help tell the breezy, thought-provoking story.
International Reading Association - February 1, 2011Janet Wong's Me and Rolly Maloo provides a fresh interpretation of competition and cliques in a fourth-grade class. Many types of families populate the book, and the characters--multiracial, shy, mean, smart, working class and middle class--struggle with being isolated and bullied or adored and privileged. The realistic conflicts, cheating, and misplaced blame are quite riveting. Wong captures the spirit of children who are testing boundaries in academic achievement and social interactions. The students have a wise and caring teacher who is willing to challenge the barriers of class to create a community of learners and, possibly, friends. The book's illustrations are rendered in a style that is a cross between a graphic novel and a comic strip or book.
Another Day, Another Thought...Or Two - March 23, 2011Jenna is a star at math which makes her not so popular at school. So when Rolly Maloo, the most popular girl in school, invites Jenna over to her house, she is beyond thrilled. This could put Jenna on the popular list, hanging with the cool kids. But when Rolly asks Jenna to help her cheat on a math test, Jenna doesn't know what to do. She knows cheating is wrong but is it so bad helping a friend in need?
We've all been here, well some of us anyway, on the outside of the group, wanting anything to be included. With kids of my own I see these issues rearing their ugly head again, especially with my 8-year old daughter. Everyone wants to feel included. Sometimes that desire can take over cloud your judgement, causing you to make bad decisions and miss the good things you already have.
Me and Rolly Maloo puts you in the shoes of Jenna, wanting to fit in and struggling with right versus wrong and misconceptions of friendship. I like that Jenna's character, though she knows cheating is wrong, really struggles with the idea. Jenna doesn't just take the moral high ground or stoop to cheating without giving it much thought. The way the story is written we don't really know which path Jenna would follow since the actual cheat is interrupted. Although you might perceive Rolly Maloo to be the bad guy (or girl) in this story, her characterization depicts her as having her own internal struggles over the whole cheating issue. This just reinforces that being popular doesn't mean life is easy either; there are pressures and stresses and influences that Rolly falls pray to also.
The unique style of Me and Rolly Maloo makes it a great read not only because of the subject matter and issues touched upon, but also in the illustrations used. Me and Rolly Maloo is a chapter book with elements of a graphic novel. This graphic novel aspect gives you a peek at some of the more subtle feelings that not only Jenna and Rolly are encountering but also their friends and mothers. This helps give some background without having to add another whole layer to the story. Plus it is a nice way to break-up the copy for those reluctant readers.
My 8 year old daughter hasn't had a chance to read Me and Rolly Maloo yet but I think the storyline and the illustrative treatment will be something she will enjoy.