One Time

HarperCollins/Harper. Sept. 2020. 272p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062570741.
Gr 3-7–Gina feels too unique for her classmates who scoff at her colorful Italian scarves and her equally vibrant imagination. When a mysterious new boy with a dazzling smile proves to be even more fanciful than Gina, the class is spellbound. Under the guidance of Miss Lightstone, whose unconventional teaching draws some negative attention, the students discover words and worlds within themselves. She begins with writing, “Who are you,” and some first sentences of modern classics (Holes, Clementine, and Harbor Me, for example) on the board and asking the students to ponder the question. Most of the students are confused or skeptical, but they all fall, some more willingly than others, into the swirl of creative writing. Although this is not a novel in verse, Creech’s short sentences, meticulous word choices, and wit show rhythm and poetry. The dialogue particularly showcases the author’s skill. A celebration of writing and reflection with memorable characters and a touch of magical realism, this book is sure to be a hit with both young readers and their teachers.
VERDICT This is a deceptively simple ballad to creative writing. Like Creech’s own Love That Dog with a nod to Roald Dahl’s Miss Honey from Matilda, and Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl, this book spotlights an inspirational teacher with a passion for thoughtfulness and words, and the children who thrive in this creative collaboration.

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