Here's another of the Byars family's beginning chapter books.
I guess I could say it has all the qualities one would want from a chapter book, were one a typical third grader: it's short (around 60 pages), familiar territory (school/home), pleasantly multicultural (the main character is portrayed in the pictures as Asian-American, though this is never mentioned in the text), boy-heavy (2 boys : 1 girl and she's obnoxious -- can we say Hermione syndrome?) and all the metaphor is completely transparent and spelled out (the class is experiencing an "earthquake" in the form of their teacher moving, paralleled by a similar earthquake experienced by David's ant farm).
Of course, there's the argument put forth by Richard Peck that children don't want to read about kids their age -- "they want to read about the people they wish to be." My limited experience has taught me that this may be true for kids -- once they can read full sentences without struggling to decode words longer than two syllables. Most 3rd graders are still becoming familiar with comprehension and basic plot elements. They don't want to wrestle with big issues. They are happy to see themselves in books, even if it's not the most flattering picture.
My only regret is the pictures are hopelessly 80s and thus would probably not sell with my kids. I just started reading The SOS Files to one third grade and they already love it... I can't help but feel the love would not flow as freely were the illustrations not hip and cartoony. Ditto with Surviving Brick Johnson. Publishers, if you're reading this (ha!), take note: would you please reprint all of the Byars/Duffey/Myers clan books with trendy 21st century illustrations? Thanks so much!
I read this as part of the Spring Reading Thing.