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Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-544-81379-3 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-328-69899-5 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 4-6
Having Mom as a teacher in her school was perfectly okay with Allie West. Having Mom as the principal . . . well, not so much. Classmates now mistrust Allie as a potential snitch—and with some justification, after she blew the whistle on her best friend, Chloe, in an incident involving banned trading cards. With no real social life, fifth-grader Allie hangs around before school with the maintenance and kitchen ladies, whom she genuinely likes, and after school with three other “Afters,” staff kids stuck in the building until their parents are ready to leave. Allie would like to regard fellow After Graham as a true friend, but he’s considered a nerdy outlier. What she really wants is reconciliation with Chloe, but Mom’s well-intentioned meddling backfires, and Allie is singin’ the middle-grade blues. Mellom has the makings of an involving tale here, but she’s hard on her heroine, laying the burden of a couple of Allie’s mainly innocent missteps and misunderstandings almost entirely on her fifth-grade shoulders. It’s Allie, and Allie alone, who is given the life lessons to learn, while the family and acquaintances who contribute to her problems are largely off the hook. Still, readers who’ve ever pondered what goes on in the school building when students are not around may enjoy a sympathetic look at the kids who remain in lockdown after the dismissal bell rings.