Sticks & Stones by Abby Cooper

Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux


Summary:  Elyse was born with cognadjivisibilitis, or CAV, a disorder in which words people use to describe her show up on her arms and legs.  As a baby, it was soothing words like “adorable”, but by the beginning of sixth grade, there are words like “loser” and “pathetic” that are itchy and uncomfortable.  In elementary school, the kids knew about her CAV and only used kind words, but in middle school, Elyse is determined to hide her condition from her new classmates, wearing pants and long-sleeve shirts year-round.  When she decides she wants to try for Explorer Leader, the biggest honor in sixth grade, she risks losing her anonymity and opens herself up to being the target of labels that are both emotionally and physically painful.  A series of unsigned notes both mystify and inspire Elyse, and by the end of sixth grade she has learned that some rewards are worth the risks, and that good friends can help take the sting out of unkind words.  288 pages; grades 4-6.

Pros:  A fun and interesting take on the theme of rising above what others say about you.  Readers will cheer for Elyse and she moves through sixth grade into a hard-won confidence.

Cons:  It seemed unlikely that anyone as shy and insecure as Elyse would be one of the select few chosen as a candidate for Explorer Leader.

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