THE GREATEST KID IN THE WORLD, by John David Anderson, Walden Pond Press, May 9, 2023, Hardcover, $19.99 (ages 8-12)
An average kid finds himself as a finalist to be named World’s Greatest Kid in The Greatest Kid in the World, by John David Anderson.
Zeke Stahls is not the best kid in the world. Some days he struggles just to be good. He’d rather be pulling pranks than doing extra credit, and he’s too busy performing experiments on his little brother, Nate, or tormenting his older sister, Jackie, to volunteer for charity.
Which is why Zeke and his entire family are shocked when they receive word that he has been selected as a contestant in an online competition to find the World’s Greatest Kid.
Zeke has no idea how he was chosen for this, and he knows that measuring up to the other nominees–a saintly lineup of selfless, charming and talented do-gooders with photogenic smiles and hearts of gold–is hopeless. Still, with a $10,000 cash prize on the line, and Zeke’s mom struggling to hold the family together on her single-parent salary, he decides to give it his best shot.
As Zeke concocts various plots to show the world just how “great” he is, however, he finds himself wondering what that word even means, and who gets to decide. And what kind of kid he wants—and needs—to be. —Synopsis provided by Walden Pond Press
The Greatest Kid in the World is one of those books that starts off innocuously but quickly turns into something much more.
At the center of the story is Zeke, a smart kid with big ideas. Big ideas that more often than not get him into trouble. But it’s those big ideas that make him so likeable. Zeke is the kind oof kid that you’d dread as a teacher and would question as the parent of one of his friends. As you get to know him, though, you realize there’s much more to him than what’s on the surface. In his heart, Zeke’s a good kid — you just have to look past his adventurous spirit to find it.
Author John David Anderson does an excellent job realizing Zeke. His heartfelt exploration of him and his family rings true, especially when it comes to the dynamics between siblings.
The Greatest Kid in the World is an unassuming novel that will knock your socks off. It’s exactly the sort of contemporary middle grade that has appeal for everyone. It will make you laugh. It may even make you cry. It definitely will stick with you long after you finish it. I highly recommend it.
*The Greatest Kid in the World is a Cybils-nominated book. This review is my opinion and not the opinion of the middle-grade fiction panel as a whole.
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