Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree is a realistic story about a middle school aged girl who is far more logical than her peers. Emma-Jean has an uncanny ability to think with true logic and reasoning, even in times of stress. The book begins as Emma-Jean discovers Colleen, a classmate, crying in the bathroom. Colleen has been uninvited from her best friend’s annual ski trip because Laura, the meanest yet most popular girl in school has taken her place. Emma-Jean resolves to help Colleen with her crisis. Emma-Jean’s tactics solve Colleen’s problem, but lead to more complicated issues in dealing with Laura. Emma-Jean learns that it is noble to want to help others, but one cannot lie and deceive in the process.
Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree is a fantastic depiction of middle school life told from the perspective of the obliviously confident Emma-Jean, and the overly insecure Colleen. By showing the story from both points of view, readers can get a sense of how different people deal with conflict. The book has a fantastic cadence that moves along nicely and is easy to read. Tarshis begins the story by immediately introducing the main conflict and allowing exposition to arrive when needed. Though the story primarily appeals to female readers, I think many different types of girls would identify with this book. Colleen and Emma-Jean are very different from one another, but both girls show the reader how to be a better person and a better friend.
Supremely logical Emma-Jean has little in common with her seventh-grade classmates, and she observes their often-tumultuous social interactions with a detached, scientific curiosity. But when kindly Colleen seeks her advice in dealing with the school’s resident mean girl, Emma-Jean is moved to apply her analytical mind–and a bit of desktop forgery–to aid her classmate. Pleased with the initial results of her meddling and a newfound sense of belonging, Emma-Jean sets out righting the everyday wrongs of middle-school life with some surprising success. Told from the alternating viewpoints of ultrarational Emma-Jean and sensitive, approval-seeking Colleen, a few key events of the story seem implausible, such as a shady car dealership exchanging a new car for a lemon after receiving one of Emma-Jean’s flimsy forgeries. Still, the story ends on an inspiring up note, with Emma-Jean attending her first school dance and developing tentative friendships with her fellow classmates, which should please fans.
Review: Kirkus Reviews
At the beginning of this incisively voiced story, Emma-Jean Lazarus, a self-possessed but socially isolated seventh-grade girl, has no friends her own age. In fact, Tarshis’s winning heroine views her classmates as an anthropologist might, observing them with great interest, but not really getting their strangely irrational behavior. And they, in turn, view her as simply strange. This begins to change when Emma-Jean comes across classmate Colleen Pomerantz sobbing her heart out in the bathroom. Colleen needs help in dealing with a girl bully, or as Emma-Jean sees it, the alpha chimp of Colleen’s social set. Emma-Jean decides that she’ll help Colleen and, later, others by utilizing the reasoning of her deceased father’s hero, the illustrious mathematician Jules Henri Poincaré. However, emotions have a way of defying logical analysis, and after a while, Emma-Jean discovers that she’s become entangled—not only with peers, but with friends. The comic juice in the story comes from Emma-Jean’s hyper-rational yet totally skewed take on reality, and her evolution from analyst to actor makes for a captivating, highly satisfying read.
I would decorate a bulletin board with a large print out of the cover of Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell out of a Tree. I would then have students post quick descriptions of problems they have helped solved a-al-Emma-Jean on leaf cut outs.
Tarshis, L. (2007) Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree. Dial Books for Young Readers ISBN: 0803731647.
McKulski, K. (2007, August) [Review of the book Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis]. Booklist, 103(14), 49-49.
[Review of the book Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis]. Kirkus Reviews, 75(2), 81-81.