Grade 4-6 Marianne desperately misses her mother, killed in an airplane crash; she and her father are living temporarily in a stark apartment; and her pesky neighbor, Brittany, awaits her after school. Encouraged by a sympathetic teacher and the smart-aleck class cut-up, Jack, Marianne works through her loneliness and feelings of abandonment; moves to a new home; gets a puppy; and is happily anticipating the addition of a perfect stepmother at the novel's end. An expert at creating believable classroom situations and realistic dialogue between students, DeClements is less successful with adult characters. These are one-dimensional, stock figures, especially Marianne's father, who seems to sleepwalk through life, oblivious to his only child's very understandable problems and unhappiness. In addition, the humor and realism of the school situation trivialize the sober theme of what a parent's sudden death can do to a nine year old. In O'Neal's A Formal Feeling (Viking, 1982) and Girion's A Tangle of Roots (Putnam, 1985) , both for slightly older children, the feelings engendered by similar tragic events are explored and developed without such abrupt mood shifts. This prequel to Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade (1981) and Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You (1985, both Viking) will appeal to middle-grade readers seeking another fast-paced, undemanding school story. Those looking for depth of characterization and descriptions of children in crisis will be better served elsewhere. Martha Rosen, Edgewood School, Scarsdale, N.Y.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.