By: Carol Liu
Publisher: Emerald Book Company
Publication Date: March 2013
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: February 2013
It was kind of unreal to see Maddie in her seat on the bus because Arlene and Lauren had been BBF. It was starting to look like best friends ... forget-about-it. “It feels,” Lauren claimed, “like I’m trapped into doing everything with you.” What? Since when did their friendship change? Arlene needed a “Bus Buddy” because she was getting a bit weaker all the time and could use a little help. Mrs. Kracken, the bus driver wasn’t happy when she saw Arlene going it alone, but things were starting to change. Her legs and fingers were getting weaker all the time, but not her spirit. Charcot-MarieTooth disease was no picnic, but seeing Lauren with Maddie hurt. A lot.
Uncle James, who called Arlene all kinds of cutesy names, always tried to comfort her when CMT got in the way. “You stand still in this life, you get run over.” She wasn’t planning on it, but every now and then Arlene would fall flat on her face when she lost her balance. Mrs. Farley, “enemy #1,” was Greenwood’s occupational therapist and helped her with that sort of thing. It was totally dorky and sometimes Arlene just wanted to shout, “I can do that! I’m not stupid!” What was stupid was the mess in the Greenwood cafeteria. The garbage cans were overflowing onto the floor with food and things like plastic forks. Didn’t anyone ever hear about recycling?
Arlene was a member of the Student Government Association, along with Ms. Liar Pants, but knew that she had half a brain and could effect change. They needed like “real” trays and silverware. They were going to talk to Principal Musgrove to discuss how Greenwood could reduce their carbon footprint, but he turned them down flat. No money. Heck any ten-year-old could figure out what to do and Arlene was just the gal. The posters went up and the SGA went into action and protested outside the school when the kids were getting on the bus. “Re-duce! Re-use! Re-cycle!” All of a sudden, they spotted Mr. Musgrove heading in their direction. It looked like reducing Greenwood’s carbon footprint was going to be nixed. Later when Arlene was trying to get on her own bus, Mrs. Kracken started yelling for her nonexistent Bus Buddy. “I don’t need any help,” she crabbed to herself, “don’t need any help at all,” but did she? Was she going to let CMT and a pile of garbage defeat her?
Arlene Harper finds herself in BIG trouble when she falls flat on her face in more ways than one. Of course when she finds herself about to lose Lauren’s friendship and runs into a brick wall trying to make the school eco-friendly, she gets a bit green around the gills. Arlene knows that “If you believe in what you are doing, there’s no sense in doing it anonymously.” The “rebel” in this young fifth-grader will appeal to young readers as she’s determined to make a difference. In the story we learn about how someone who is “different” really isn’t so different after all and can be the impetus for change. Arlene’s never say die attitude will resonate with her readers, who will also learn about Charcot-MarieTooth disease (CMT). This is a bit heavier reading than Mallory, but will have great appeal to the budding activist!
Quill says: Arlene, a young activist, is a young "rebel queen" that everyone will fall in love with!