Stuey Lewis Against All Odds: Stories from the Third Grade is the follow-up to 2011’s The One and Only Stuey Lewis: Stories from the Second Grade. The new book contains four stories, each about a different episode in Stuey’s third grade year. In "Give Me Space", Stuey and his class organize a virtual field trip to the space science center where his dad works. In "First-Time Fliers", Stuey and his brother Anthony fly to their father’s for Christmas. "Queen for a Day" is about Stuey and Anthony’s attempts to make their mother feel like a queen on mother’s day, and "Best in Show" focuses on the class pet show, for which Stuey does not have an animal to share.
The “against all odds” part of the title implies that this book will see Stuey overcoming a lot of adversity, but I don’t think that is a fair representation of what the stories actually talk about. While Stuey does sometimes have trouble with the challenges of having divorced parents, he is a pretty easygoing, upbeat character, and he never really describes his problems as overwhelming obstacles. “Against all Odds” has a nice ring to it, but I wish the book had a more engaging title, as the stories themselves do.
The writing itself is solid, and heavy on the dialogue, which is nice for kids who are intimidated or simply bored by long, descriptive paragraphs. There are quite a few characters introduced across the four stories, but each one’s personality comes through clearly in just a few spoken words. The best example of this is Lilly Stanley, whose annoying personality is illustrated using statements such as this one, where she corrects the classroom teacher, Ginger.
“You said Friday night when you meant to say Friday morning, Ginger,” Lilly interrupts. “But don’t worry, I get confused sometimes when I’m excited, too.”
It’s not just what she says, but how she says it that really fleshes out her character, even without any description written into the story.
Dialogue also keeps the plot moving forward and provides exposition and context in a straightforward, but not boring, way. I especially like the interactions between Stuey and his friend, Will, and between Stuey and his brother, Anthony.
Stuey is an authentic representation of the mind of an eight-year-old boy. He falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, about halfway between troublemaker characters like Calvin Coconut and Horrid Henry and worrywarts like Alvin Ho and Justin Case. Stuey Lewis Against All Odds will appeal to fans of the Stink Books, Marty McGuire, and Freckle Juice.
I borrowed Stuey Lewis Against All Odds: Stories from the Third Grade from my local public library.