I must say, I believe that Faith Laux has hit it out of the park with (what I believe is) her first novel. This book is hilarious. I find it hard to believe that she manages to tell such a compelling story based on farting, using 155 unique words in 11 chapters. I think every single one of my students would enjoy this story, if they take the time to read it. From terrorizing teachers and the school heartthrob to pesky siblings and gigantic farts, this book really has something for everyone.
This story revolves around Anabel, beginning on her 13th birthday. In the span of a few days, she conquers many of the trials and tribulations of teenage life including cruel teachers, being embarrassed, and her first crush. Oh yeah, and farting. There is a lot, a lot, a lot of farting in this book. I do believe it introduces every possible fart expression. At least, I can’t think of a way to talk about someone farting that doesn’t appear in these 60 pages.
As is my custom with previewing books, my first read was done while reading it aloud to my husband in English. It’s a litmus test that I use when deciding whether or not the book is simple enough for my students. If I can’t read the whole thing easily with a natural cadence to my speech rate then it is probably not ideal for my beginning readers, if I can read most of it then it’s a sure bet for fifth grade, and if I can spontaneously translate it in the first read without any trouble at all then it goes to my earliest readers – unless it is disqualified by subject matter. Perhaps this says more about my fluency than it does about the book, and I am open to suggestions on better screening methods, but it is not my only filter, so I try to learn from my read-aloud experience as I make my decision. This is relevant because there was one moment (near the end of the book) where what was being said was so outlandish that I didn’t trust my translation and had to re-read it just to be sure. That indicates to me that perhaps it will not be ideal for my third graders, and I will save it for fourth and fifth grades. I believe that my third graders could read it, but I would rather give it to students with a smidge more confidence than those first-year-of-Spanish babies tend to have at their age.
Content-wise, I love that it deals with crushes without going into kissing. I really, really don’t like giving my elementary students books with kissing. Everyone is different in what they find to be appropriate or not for their students, and that’s just one of my lines. I don’t like many insults and I don’t like any kissing. These kids see so much PDA in their digital life that I’d rather keep it out of their Spanish life. Again, that’s me and my opinions. As for insults – there are several, and some are quite inventive, but they do not dissuade me from thinking this book will be okay for my fourth and fifth grade students. Partially because they do have a fairly complex grammatical structure, which means only devoted novice readers are going to understand the depth of what is being said, and partially because it does fit well into the caricature (at least, I hope it’s a caricature, and not based on a person the author is actually acquainted with!) of the speaker.
Ultimately, if it isn’t obvious enough, I give La Heroína Improbable two thumbs up! While most ideal for middle school, I believe this book will be approved by readers of all ages. Farts really are universally funny. I hope you love it as much as I did.