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review 2017-06-20 00:18
Save Me a Seat
Save Me a Seat - Gita Varadarajan,Sarah Weeks

Save Me a Seat is a recent middle grade book co-authored by veteran Sarah Weeks and newcomer Gita Varadarajan.  While not explicitly discussed in the interviews, I believe the two authors met at a Teachers College Writing Workshop directed by Lucy Calkins and that the collaborative project may have been born during the workshop. 

 

The book features alternating chapters of the first week of 5th grade from two viewpoints, Joe (written by Ms. Weeks) and Ravi (written by Ms. Varadarajan).  Joe has lived in the same small town in central NJ all his life.  Ravi has just moved to the US from India.  Taking place over the course of a single week, the boys find common cause and the seed of a friendship as they are both targets of their class bully, an Indian-American kid named Dillon Samreen.

 

There were many moments of humor and realistic tween emotions throughout Save Me a Seat. I also liked the clever way the book used food as a framing.  However, I didn’t fall in love with the story or the characters. While seeing yourself represented in books is important, I thought it was just too convenient that Joe’s defining characteristic is a learning disability.  And there were times that the moral lessons of looking beyond the surface to find potential friends were just a bit too blatant for my adult eyes.  As I read, I kept wondering if this is a book kids would really be attracted to on their own or if it was written to be a parable and the basis of lesson plans and won’t find many readers outside that context.

 

Read for Tomorrowland 34 in Booklikes-opoly

 

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review 2017-04-19 05:03
Two boys face down one bully...
Save Me a Seat - Gita Varadarajan,Sarah Weeks

 

This is a great book. The story follows two boys during their first week of middle school (Ravi and Joe). One is a new boy from India and the other is dealing with social issues. This book depicts what feels like a real-life school experience. The boys think they have nothing in common until they are united by a common enemy - the school bully.

 

The chapters are written in alternating points of view between the two boys, and the book is sectioned by days of the week. We can see how much they have in common and root for them to finally realize it and become friends. There is a lot of Indian culture woven into the story, the food, the language, and in Ravi's home.

 

At the end of the book, there are two glossaries. One is Ravi's with Hindi words and their definitions. The second is Joe's with English slang words and their definitions. There are also two recipes, one from each boy's family.

 

The book is a well written multi-cultural book that accurately depicts the experience of a boy coming from India to the United States. I think children will relate to the characters and their situations. 

 

I used this book in a paper I wrote describing a program promoting kindness.

 

One of my favorite lines from the book:

These candies have four layers. Most people assume there are only three, but assumptions are often wrong. There is more to them than meets the eye.

- Joe explaining why he is like an M&M

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review 2016-11-13 03:56
A New Friend Could Be Seating Right Next To You
Save Me a Seat - Gita Varadarajan,Sarah Weeks

Writing can change the world

 

There is so much we can learn from this middle grade book. Save Me a Seat is written in view of two protagonist of two different cultures - Ravi and Joe. Ravi is from India migrated to America when his family moved over here to start fresh in the land of opportunity. Joe is a boy with a condition that wants to be left alone. Both of them have one thing in common - they were bullied by a student in their class. What happens in the end... well, you have to read this book.

 

Both views are read from an Asian perspective and western perspective itself. What I love about this book is that is so much any children can learn the morale values in it. There are so many nice quotes included as well that we can learn from, which I won't reveal here as it will spoil the story. As the story unfolds in five days, I love the simplicity and the beauty of the plot. Its so simple and yet an endearing read.

 

Gita Varadarajan and Sarah Weeks done so well with this book, this should be read in all school libraries. If you have kids around middle grade age, please let them read this book. Its suitable and it teaches children the importance of learning and guidance and surviving in school. But what is more important, its how it is delivered. As a teacher myself, I would recommend this to students to read.

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review 2016-06-22 14:59
Save Me A Seat
Save Me a Seat - Gita Varadarajan,Sarah Weeks

This novel is not complicated, the story is not deep but the issue that it touches on, is huge. Joe knows what it is like to attend Albert Einstein Elementary School but Ravi is new and from the minute that he walks into the fifth grade classroom, Dillon and his buddies have their eyes set on him. Joe has been bullied by Dillon and his boys and now Ravi is the target. An intelligent, gifted student from India, Ravi believes that his new American peers will be impressed with his superiority.   I had to laugh a few times as Ravi internally builds with excitement; he visually imagines how his peers will react as he perfectly performs his school work in front of them. When able to execute this school work for them, what he imaged would occur and what actually occurs does not always match leaving Ravi dealing with some difficult emotions. I thought one of the funniest things about this novel was the fact that Ravi wanted Dillon’s attention and he wanted to be friends with him. He didn’t realize what type of person Dillon was. He tries so hard to be in Dillon’s range of sight and it isn’t until later that he realizes that maybe he should be doing something else.   Joe on the other hand, was quiet and was keeping his distance from Dillon and was glad that Ravi was the fresh meat in the classroom. I was angry at the teacher for she had to have known what type of person Dillon was, for he had this personality last year.   Her classroom begins to get lively and I wanted her to get involved in what was occurring. I didn’t expect her to point fingers but she had to notice, didn’t she? I knew what I wanted the characters to do but they each had their own agenda.   Ravi’s past comes into play as he navigates around his new peers and tries to find where to fit in. Joe has been under Dillon’s radar and knows everything about Dillon, can the two boys help each other?

 

I liked the way that the novel wasn’t complicated. It wasn’t filled with other stories or lives of people who didn’t matter; it dealt with the individuals whose lives were being affected. It’s an easy read and it’s fast and straight to the point. I believe that many upper elementary and middle school student will enjoy this novel for its plot and for its structure.

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