Justin Fisher is in the fifth grade at Spiro Agnew Elementary School. This has a great first chapter. Justin is remembering a lunch room incident from the third grade. Justin wonders if it never happened would he still be the class clown?
" So there he was, moving precariously forward with his tray, when things began sliding. The Jell-O shivered, slipping toward the edge. When Justin tipped the tray up, the three meatballs began to tumble, rumble, and roll in the other direction. To make things worse, Justin had a paperback book tucked under his arm and an apple wedged between his chin and neck. As he tried to stop the sliding, slipping meatballs with a minor tray adjustment, the daredevil Jell-O tried to make a leap for it. Look out below! It splattered on the floor, a splotch of green goo. As if that wasn't bad enough - Justin wondered what dessert could survive such a fall - a chunk of Jello-O slithered under his next footstep. And that was when the cardboard tray, complete with spaghetti worms and meatlike balls, flew toward the ceiling. Justin left knee buckled. His right foot slipped and kicked out making him look like a backward - falling punter on a football field. Shoulders tipped back, and back and back. At that moment, Justin Fisher had a pretty amazing view of the spaghetti as it soared up and up, like a flying snakes but without wings or feathers, magical airborne spaghetti right out of some crazy sci fi adventure movie"
I wish I could share the entire first chapter but I am pretty sure that's illegal. Preller writes Justin's "uh oh" moment so well. Readers will easily sympathize with Justin as his accidental fall plays out step by step. I am not one to make playlist for books. Though if I did "Tears of the Clown" by Smokey Robinson and the Mircles would be track one.
After his public fall Justin decides to be in on the laugh, making himself the class clown. Fast forward to the fifth grade, Justin's still playing the same part, but his classmates are tired of it. His teacher Mr. Tripp has rules he expects to be followed. Justin doesn't like these rules. He decides to fight back, declaring war and acting out as much as he can.
Justin gets himself into more trouble. In class he interrupts. Outside Justin sometimes tells mean jokes about other kids. Justin isn't a bad kid, he simply doesn't know where to draw the line. Part of me thinks Justin believes peoples feelings can be hurt if it leads to laugh because of what happened in the third grade. The fifth grade is getting ready for a talent show. Justin wants to be the MC but the other students think he'll ruin it for the entire grade. After the tryouts, Tori, a quiet call with a great voice calls Justin out. She tells Justin everyone thinks he's a jerk.
When, I first read this scene, I wished it was longer. After, I looked back on it, I realized it was good as is. A shy girl confronting a boy who acted like a jerk is huge. As is the boys willingness to listen and not deny, laugh away or try to defend prior bad acts.
Slowy Justin learns when to stop trying to be funny all the time and to be careful of other peoples feelings. Somewhere along the way Mr. Tripp and Justin both give a little and meet in the middle. Justin calls a truce. I thought it is was very cool that Justin's was a reader. At one point teacher and student start talking about books. Justin lends Mr. Tripp his copy of Bone* by Smith. In turn the Mr. Tripp shares some of his favorites with Justin, including Dogs Don't Tell Jokes by Sachar
I really enjoyed Justin Fisher Declares War. Preller's has a created a character in Justin, that isn't all good or bad. The author previous novel Along Came Spider , is also set at Spiro Agew Elementary School. Anyone who has read it, will like being able to see how best friends Trey and Spider are doing. I don't know if the author plans to set anymore novels at this school. But I hope so. Justin Fisher Declares War is a great suggestion for fans of Andrew Clements or Dan Gutman.
This is legal- read the excerpt
*Smith's Bone series is very popular. Some young readers may like the fact that Justin is reading the same series as them.
Preller was kind enough to participate in my 9 authors 12 questions feature to kick off the baseball season this year. I suppose I should do one of those, oh by the way I kind of cyber know the author but this is my honest opinion declarations, since I slipped in that feature in. So here goes, Justin Fisher Declares War is a really good book. That statement was not given under duress and there is no check the mail. I borrowed Justin Fisher Declares War! from my local library.