Sink or Swim (The Creature from the Seventh Grade, Book 2) Review
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Unabridged Digital Audiobook: 4 hours, 41 minutes
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The middle school years can be pretty tough for any average kid. But it’s probably safe to say that surviving middle school is even harder if you’re a preteen mutant dinosaur like the one in the audio edition of Sink or Swim, the second book in author Bob Balaban’s The Creature from the Seventh Grade series.

The story finds 12-year-old Charlie Drinkwater wrongfully accused of stealing various items from around town. It seems that, if you suddenly turn into a giant mutant dinosaur, other people begin to believe the worst about you. Convinced that Charlie is a juvenile delinquent in need of direction and discipline, his principal signs him up for the school’s swim team. The only problem: Charlie is terrified of swimming. So with just days to go before the team’s next big swim meet, Charlie and his friends set out to clear his name.

Cool and clever and comical, Sink or Swim is a fun-filled audio adventure that’s sure to connect with young listeners. Balaban writes with warmth as well as a laid-back sense of humor—and his narration seems to fit perfectly with the main character’s uncertainties and eccentricities.

Charlie is an endearingly awkward main character—an anxious preteen who also just happens to be an eight-foot-tall mutant dinosaur. Fortunately, though, he’s surrounded by supportive (if quirky) friends and a loving family who always stand by him—even when things are looking their worst.

Part of the charm of the book is that it handles Charlie’s unusual situation as if it were no big deal. Charlie’s transformation is a thing of the past—and it’s actually a hereditary trait that, while troubling, isn’t entirely surprising. So while he may not look like other 12-year-olds, he still has to go to school. He still deals with bullies. And he still has to do chores around the house. It makes for a lovably quirky story—but one with a good message. After all, at some point, most 12-year-olds feel like they’re strange and different. They’re trying to figure out who they are and where they fit. And if an eight-foot-tall mutant dinosaur can have friends and confront bullies and even face his greatest fears, anyone can.

The set-up may seem silly, but that’s part of what makes Sink or Swim so disarmingly amusing. Kids will love following Charlie’s mutant dinosaur drama—and this unexpected hero and his story might even encourage them to stand up for themselves and face their fears, too.

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