Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Step Fourth, Mallory!

Step Fourth, Mallory!

Laurie Friedman
Illustrator:  Jennifer Kalis 
Fiction  Series
For ages 7 to 9
Lerner, 2009   ISBN: 978-1580138420

Mallory is going into the fourth grade and she is so excited. She is going to have her best friend, Mary Ann, in her class, and it is so much cooler to be able to say that you are in fourth grade than to say that you are in third grade.

When they get to their new classroom, Mallory and her classmates meet their teacher, Mr. Knight, for the first time. One of the very first things he does is he give each of the students a list of rules. There are ten of them in all, and the first one is “Do NOT shout in the classroom.” Unfortunately, one of the very first things Mallory does is she shouts to Mary Ann across the room. Before class has even properly begun, Mallory has managed to get in trouble.

Regrettably, this is only the beginning of what turns into a really bad day. By the end of the day Mallory manages to break rule #2, “Raise your hand to speak” and rule #3, “Pay attention.” In addition, the new boy, Carlos, is paying a lot of attention to Mary Anne, which is painful because Mallory has decided that she really likes him.

Mallory hopes that things will get better in the days that follow, but they don’t. She really wants to tell Mary Ann that she, Mallory, like Carlos in that special way, but she can’t seem to find the right time to do it. By the time she is ready to speak her mind it is too late. Mary Anne announces that she really likes Carlos.

On top of this, Mallory cannot seem to avoid breaking more of Mr. Knight’s rules. Again and again she says and does the wrong thing, and she begins to wish she could go back to being a third grader. Fourth grade is turning out to be a nightmare.

Growing up can be difficult sometimes, and for many children learning to take responsibility for their actions is a difficult lesson to learn. They have to come to terms with the idea that people are going to hold them responsible for whatever they do, even when they don’t mean to do it. It might not seem fair, but that is how it is.

With sensitivity and humor, Laurie Friedman uses Mallory’s mistakes to help young readers to better understand this important lesson. Mallory’s voice is true-to-life and completely credible. Though we might smile at her mistakes at times, we also know that it would be pretty easy to make those mistakes ourselves.