The Greatest Kid in the World

Walden Pond/HarperCollins/. May 2023. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062986030.
Gr 3-7–Life offers very few second chances or opportunities to make amends. Twelve-year old troublemaker Ezekiel “Zeke” Stahls does not even realize he needs to atone until he is offered an exclusive spot in the Greatest Kid in the World competition. This competition is sort of like “America’s Got Talent,” where videos capture a week’s worth of greatness and viewers log in to vote. Zeke, an endearing yet unrepentant prankster, plans to scheme his way into winning the contest (and its impressive prize) through trickery. But as the competition gets more serious, Zeke finds himself growing up and getting honest about who he is, and how his behavior affects the people who love him. Anderson crafts a prankster with a heart of gold desperately seeking attention and some joie de vivre. This text could be used in social-emotional lessons about family dynamics, guilt, grief, and how certain friend groups negatively impact decision-making. Rambunctious middle schoolers will be drawn to Zeke’s humor and high jinks.
VERDICT Although resembling Gordon Korman’s Restart and Ungifted, Anderson’s latest aims to infuse more kindness in the world by recognizing how one’s actions impact others.

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