"The New Kid"

Start the New Year off right by introducing first- through fourth-graders to “The Carver Chronicles,” by Karen English, a series set in Carver Elementary School featuring a class of third-graders.

“The New Kid,” Book Five, features a boy named Gavin and a dilemma that presents itself when the bike he cherishes is stolen off the playground at school. Gavin is heartsick about the loss, but his dad isn’t overly sympathetic because his son forgot to secure the bike with a lock.

Teachable moments arise in the story when a new boy in class, Khufu, appears at school with an orange bike that looks exactly like Gavin’s blue one. It’s easy for Gavin to pin the crime on Khufu because he concocts whoppers about his life, like he was born in Sweden, and attended a school for geniuses, for starters.

Of course Khufu is the culprit — Gavin and his friends think, jumping to conclusions that lead to trouble for all of them.

While all this is playing out, Gavin has other issues at home with his big sister, a know-it-all who gets on his last nerve, and a visitor who tests his patience, his Great Aunt Myrtle, who’s hurt her back, is staying with the family, and making continual demands on Gavin.

There’s much to appreciate about “The New Kid.” Gavin is a sympathetic character, his problems are realistic and English presents the lessons he learns in a way that doesn’t come off as preachy. English also doesn’t fully flesh out the reasons behind Khufu’s tall tales, making one wonder if he might be the main character in her next book. Line drawings by Laura Freeman bring the students to life enhancing the appeal of this fast-paced chapter book.