By Elizabeth Wroten
Chapter Book Review: EllRay Jakes Is Not a Chicken
On 23, Dec 2015 | In Review | By Elizabeth Wroten
From Goodreads: Eight-year-old EllRay Jakes is sick of getting picked on. But every time he tries to defend himself against class bully Jared Matthews, EllRay is the one who winds up in trouble. It’s just not fair! Then his dad offers him a deal: If EllRay can stay out of trouble for a week, they’ll go to Disneyland! But being good for one whole week is not so easy. . . .
So I will be buying several of the books in this series for my library. It was funny and true to life and my kids like realistic fiction. Also, EllRay is black and middle class with two parents- a professor father and an author mother. He is also one of the few black kids in his school (and one of the few black families in his Southern California neighborhood). I need more books like this that reflect the African American kids in my school. So often books that feature black families feature them as poor, or single parent, or living in a bad neighborhood or sports (i.e. stereotype!) and by and large those are not my students of color. I work in a very wealthy private school and my kids aren’t really seeing themselves in the few novels that do feature characters of color.
Now, I was of another mind about the actual story for the majority of the book. EllRay is being bullied by a kid in his class for some reason, a reason he isn’t sure about until the end. EllRay’s plan to avoid the bully isn’t particularly good nor is it effective and he won’t share with an adult that it’s going on. I think this is exactly how a kid in second grade would handle this. In fact I know it is, because we had an issue with a bully last year in the third grade and it went down in much the same way. But! But, I wish there had been some sympathetic adults. EllRay’s parents are more concerned about his behavior at school because of a progress report that went home. And his teacher is clueless as to how her actions affect the class and home dynamics. I find that really frustrating as an adult. On the other hand I don’t want a didactic story. The final page, though, explains that everything isn’t gravy but things are better and I think that made the rest go down easier.