Author: Gennifer Choldenko
Illustrator: Églantine Ceulemans
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Pages: 224
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As being nerdy has become more and more cool we’re seeing a whole different perspective on nerdy characters in kids novels. I’ve been a huge fan of the emerging ‘nerdy contemporary’ genre in young adult fiction and I was really excited to see a middle grade take on things.

Enter One-Third Nerd.

Gennifer Choldenko’s latest feels like an authentic look at the changing dynamics in ‘nerdy’ and ‘cool’ from a fifth grader’s perspective. I can say that because I’ve got a sixth grader who reminds me of Liam in so many ways. I’ve had the very same conversations about is ‘cool’ that Liam seems to be working through in this book which made it all the more entertaining a read.

A funny, fast-paced, and heartfelt story from the Newbery Honor-winning author of the Al Capone series.

Fifth grade is not for amateurs, according to Liam. Luckily, he knows that being more than one-third nerd is not cool. Liam lives in the Bay area near San Francisco with his mom and two younger sisters. Dakota is fascinated by science and has a big personality but struggles to make friends; Izzy, a child with Down syndrome, makes friends easily and notices things that go past everyone else. Dad lives across town, but he’s over a lot. And then there’s Cupcake, their lovable German shepherd, who guards their basement apartment.

Recently, Cupcake has a problem–she’s peeing in the house. The kids need to make enough money to take her to the vet before their landlord upstairs finds out. And Mom and Dad have said if Cupcake doesn’t stop, they will find her a new home. But the kids will never let Cupcake go. Can they save her? 

Now, admittedly, One-Third Nerd is less ‘nerdy contemporary’ than most books I’d classify in that sub-genre. The nerdiest character in the whole book probably isn’t Liam, our lovable narrator, but his sister, Dakota. But it’s such an honest book you can’t help but love it. Nerdy or not – Liam is a good kid dealing with a lot at home who still manages to see things through.

The main problem in the book around which everything is framed is Cupcake (the dog) and her incontinence problem. But while it’s certainly a good, believable problem for a kid in Liam’s situation to have it’s the rest of what’s going on that’s more interesting in my opinion.

Liam’s struggle with being ‘cool’ reminds me of my own childhood and the cast of characters at times remind me of my own friends. Who doesn’t remember that one friend they never wanted to invite over because they wanted that person to think that you were cooler than you really were? Add in Liam’s crazy sister Dakota (who at times is equally charming in her own way and infuriating) and you’ve got all kinds of shenanigans to keep up with.

But, oh man.

I love Izzy. Izzy is the greatest. She has Down syndrome and that fact is just an every day part of their lives. Very little of the story revolves around it and the parts that do tend to be little slice-of-life moments. She’s a fabulous supporting character and the way the author handles portrays her shines a very positive light on characters with Down syndrome. Izzy gets to be a little sister like any little sister who gets caught up in what her older siblings are doing. She may be different but she is in no way limited.

Over all, One-Third Nerd is a great book for middle grade readers who may be around Liam’s age. Once you’re in fourth and fifth grade (or moving into middle school) being ‘cool’ becomes a lot more important and One-Third Nerd gives kids a story that they can relate to while still keeping them interested (and entertained). It’s a very quick read and the illustrations are great. They’ve got a quirky almost doodle like style to them that are sure to appeal to readers.

One-Third Nerd is a great addition to a middle grade library!


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About the Author

Choldenko is best known for her Tales from Alcatraz series, which has sold more than 2 million copies. Book #1: Al Capone Does My Shirts was a Newbery Honor Book and the recipient of twenty other awards. Book #4: Al Capone Throws Me a Curve is due out in 2018. BookPage said of her most recent novel, Chasing Secrets: “Choldenko’s ability to research obscure yet intriguing topics is uncanny, and as she did with the popular Al Capone trilogy she turns a tough topic into a high interest read … a compelling work of historical fiction.” Gennifer lives with her loyal husband and naughty dog in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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