Book covers and titles are designed to captured readers’ attention. The recently released middle level chapter book, Somebody On This Bus is Going to be Famous, definitely falls into this category. Most will look to the back cover to seek more information.
If a reader takes the next step and starts to read the prologue, their attention will be focused on a horrific bus accident that occurs at the end of a school year. Few will put down the book before learning more about what happens. After just a handful of pages, J. B. Cheaney takes the reader back nine months to the beginning of the school year. The remainder of the book has a linear sequence that follows the major events on the school calendar.
The daily occurrence of a school bus ride becomes the primary setting as the lives of the main characters are introduced. The round trip bus ride is approximately an hour each day. Even though all of the main characters have distinct and memorable characteristics, some middle school readers may find it challenging, at first, to keep track of all of the personalities and their families’ stories. As the book progresses, it becomes easier to differentiate, see how the characters are interelated, and draw comparisons.
In addition to following each character’s development and the interaction between the passengers, readers will become intrigued by the unanswered questions that become an integral part of the story.
- Why did the bus crash?
- What is the author’s definition of fame?
- Which individual is singled out as noteworthy?
- What will the person do to earn that designation?
- Why does no one get on the bus when it stops on the washed out gravel on Farm Road 152?
- Can the children work together to solve this mystery?
- What happened to the class of 1985?
- Will all of the characters overcome their personal issues?
Conversations among the passengers and informative narratives fuel the pace of the story. The main characters face real life issues. Spencer, the smart character, realizes the importance of taking ownership for his actions. “It isn’t his mother’s standards’ he’s trying to meet, not anymore. It’s his own.” (Page 147) Matthew, the average kid, intentionally avoids the spotlight. “Sure he colors inside the lines, but that’s because he figured out a long time ago that if you just do what they want, they’ll leave you alone.” (Page 158-9) Insecure Miranda is searching for her identity. “The bus pauses after backing up. As though waiting for some little girl or boy to appear, who never does like me, Miranda thinks again. I’m waiting for me to show up.” (Page 85)
Like many complex stories, the characters cope with an overabundance of extraordinary circumstances, secrets, and challenging obstacles. This diverse number of subplots may overwhelm a younger or less sophisticated reader.
Even though the title and book cover portray a lighthearted tale, the actual text takes the reader down an unsettling path with multiple twists and turns. Despite this disconnect and occasional melancholy tone, readers will turn pages quickly in order to find out what happens to the nine main characters, their families and the bus driver, Mrs. B.
In exchange for an honest interview and review, J. B. sent me a copy
THE PLAYMAKER (September 2000)
- “Ten Best First Novels For Young Adults, 2001″ Booklist magazine
- A New York City Public Library “2001 Best Book for the Teen Age”
- A Bank Street College of Education “2001 Best Book”
THE TRUE PRINCE (October 2002)
- A New York City Public Library “2003 Best Book for the Teen Age”
- A Bank Street College of Education “2003 Best Book”
MY FRIEND THE ENEMY (July 2005)
- “2005 Ten Best Books For Young Readers,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- Finalist for the 2005 PEN Center award in Juvenile/Young-adult Fiction
- Scholastic Book Club selection, Winter 2007
THE MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE (May 2007)
- “Our Favorite Things,” Family Fun Magazine, May 2007
- Washington Post “KidsPost” Book of the Week, August 2007
- BookBuzz (MO Press Association) Book of the Month, August 2007
- Kansas Notable Book, 2008
- Nominated for the 2008-09 Texas Bluebonnet Award
- Nominated for the 2008 Cybil Award, Middle-grade fiction category
- Nominated for the 2009-2010 Florida Sunshine State Young Reader Award
- Nominated for the 2010-2011 Indiana Young Hoosier award
SOMEBODY ON THIS BUS IS GOING TO BE FAMOUS, 2014
- A Junior Library Guild selection, Fall 2014
Is there a limit to the number of main characters in a middle level chapter book?
What actions should lead to fame?
Leave your comment below and be eligible for the Book Giveaway.
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog by Sunday, September 21 will be eligible for a book giveaway.J.B. will send the randomly selected winner an autographed hard covered copy of The Middle of Somewhere. The mailing address must be in the US.
Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons. The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.