Kids love Rob Buyea’s books. Just ask my fifth grade students or the fourth graders who are reading it now. They love talking about the characters and the ways they change. These students will be excited to learn that Buyea has a new book, “The Perfect Score,” filled with many characters who all grow and change over the course of the book.
“The Perfect Score” is about a group of sixth-grade students who end up with a dinosaur of a teacher, Mrs. Woods, who had taught many of their parents back in the day. Mrs. Woods is strict and she is no-nonsense, but she loves to read and she loves books. And the kids love being read to — all of them.
Even Gavin, whose dyslexia makes it difficult for him to read, loves hearing the stories come alive when Mrs. Woods shares them. Gavin is just one of the students whose lives are stressful in one way or another. Randi struggles with her mother’s high expectations that she be a world-class gymnast. Natalie sets high standards for herself and yearns to follow in her parents’ footsteps and practice law. Scott is the butt of cruel jokes who has never been invited to a birthday party, but who has a heart of gold. He worries about his grandfather, who has lost his wife and seems to be sinking into depression. His grandfather won’t throw anything away because he’s worried that he’ll forget his wife if he throws her belongings away. Scott decides to do something to help his grandfather. Trevor is mean at school, but it’s to hide the problems he faces at home.
The students come together when they are faced with a horrible test. While most students hate standardized tests, many teachers hate them even more. When Mrs. Woods is forced to stop her beloved read-aloud time because the students have to take practice tests to prepare for the final test, she is heartbroken. Her students are even more upset. They hate the practice tests.
Because of the pressure they feel to do well on the test, they come up with a plan to ace the test. Of course, the plan backfires. But that’s when the real story comes out. It’s how the kids react when faced with their dishonesty that makes this book worth reading.
There is also the kitty Scott rescues who fulfills the answer in every Facebook post that questions “Who saved who?” when a homeless animal is rescued and becomes a life saver for his new-found human/friend. There is the mother who realizes her mistakes and wants to do better, and there are the children who realize that they misjudged their parents.
Teachers will love using this book, just as they have used “Because of Mr. Terupt,” to teach upper elementary students about character development and character change. All of Buyea’s book make great teaching tools, and this one is no different. Added bonus: kids will gobble it up because it is pure literary joy.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Delacorte Press, the publisher, for review purposes.