Monday, June 20, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner

About the book:  Gianna Z has less than one week to collect, identify, and creatively display 25 leaves for her science project—or else she won’t be able to compete in the upcoming cross-country race. As the deadline for her leaf project draws near, life keeps getting in the way. Some things are within Gee’s control, like her own procrastination, but others aren’t, like Bianca Rinaldi’s attempts at sabotage and Nonna’s declining health. If it weren’t for her best friend Zig, Gee wouldn’t have a chance at finishing. His knowledge of trees and leaves in their rural Vermont town comes in very handy, as does his loyalty to Gee. But when Nonna disappears one afternoon, things like leaves and cross-country meets suddenly seem less important. (Goodreads)

First Line: "Forty-one minutes to cross-country practice."

One Great Line: "He has the meanest face I've ever seen, like he just ate something rotten and can't get it out of his teeth." (71)

My Favorite Character Quote: Nonna: "Sometimes you need to dive, and sometimes you need to flutter. And sometimes you just need to be tough and hang on." (177)

What Others Are Saying:
“Youngsters will find much to relate to in this likable protagonist’s struggle to balance family and academic commitments. Messner’s warm and humorous tone will capture even reluctant readers.”—School Library Journal

What I Thought: First I have to say that I loved every minute of this book. Gianna brought me back to my middle grade years. I still have bad dreams about not being able to find an assignment that I swear I had completed and digging deep into my locker, paper falling endlessly on top of me.  All of Messner's characters are complex and interesting. When Gianna thinks about doing something out of anger, sadness or embarrassment, the thoughts are honest and raw. In the end Gianna, forgetful and disorganized as she is, comes out with true bravery and integrity. 

E.B. White Read-Aloud Award For Older Readers
More On Kate Messner
About The Author 
Who: An award-winning author of books for kids as well as a National Board Certified middle-school English teacher. Her books include E.B. White Award Winner The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. and Sugar and Ice, both middle grade novels from Walker/Bloomsbury; the Marty McGuire chapter book series with Scholastic (May 2011); and Sea Monster’s First Day, a first-day-of-school picture book with Chronicle Books (June 2011). She grew up in Medina, a small town in western New York, and today lives near Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Newest Middle Grade Novel

When:  "I’ve always loved writing, ever since my first grade teacher put one of my first stories up on the classroom bulletin board. In second grade, I started making covers for my books so my parents could “publish” them on the refrigerator. I remember being especially proud of one that I’d called “Shark Terror of the Sea.” See complete interview here.

Best Advice:  "Find your own voice...There are lots of terrific voices out there, and it’s fine to admire them and even emulate them once in a while, but ultimately, you need to find your own style and write in a voice that belongs to you and your unique characters alone."
More great advice here.

 New Series of Chapter books
Have any of you read any of her newest books, Sugar and Ice or Marty Macguire?  I can't wait to read all of them!

Last day to enter last weeks drawing for copy of Plain Kate by Erin Bow.    Enter Here.

Don't miss the other MMGM posters:

-Natalie Aguirre has an awesome interview with Nathan Bransford about JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW--with a giveaway! Click HERE for details.

-Joanne Fritz is highlighting THE CHRONICLES OF ANCIENT DARKNESS--with a giveaway! Click HERE to read her thoughts.

-Michael Gettel-Gilmartin is featuring NO PASSENGERS BEYOND THIS POINT. Click HERE to read more about it.

-Barbara Watson continues her special MMGMM summer series by spotlighting TANGO. Click HERE to see what she thinks.

-Brooke Favero is featuring the Goddess Girls series, with an interview with the authors. Click HERE to see what they have to say.

-The lovely Shannon O'Donnell (aka #2) always has fabulous MG love going on at her blog on Mondays. Click HERE to see what she has going on today.

-And last but not least, our leader in all things MMGM Shannon Messenger is having a timeless give-away and review of the book The Time Travelers. Click HERE to enter.


  1. Great review. Not finishing a project is something kids (and adults) can relate to.

  2. I had a leaf project in middle school and remember working and working and working on it...

    My daughter would enjoy this book. Thanks for the review! I enjoy the quote excerpts - gives a feel for the voice of the story.

  3. Thanks for the review. It sounds great, and I love the cover.

  4. I really like the way you set your reviews out, Pam. Easy on the eye, and well-organized.

    I've heard only good things about this book. Must read.

  5. I've heard a lot about this book but never read it. Great review! Love all the info about the author. And I've read Marty Maguire and enjoyed it.

  6. I do love this one, and not only because I'm coaching cross country. I can't wait to see what Messner writes next!


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