Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Review: Fool's Errand by Jenna Zark

The Beat Street Series, Book 2
by Jenna Zark
Dragon Moon Press
Middle Grade Historical
150 pages

When her best friend Sophie goes missing, 12-year-old Ruby Tabeata has a choice: wait for her friend to come home or defy her parents and find Sophie. 

Set during the 1950s Blacklist era when writers like Sophie’s mom were being jailed or fired, Fool’s Errand sends Ruby out of her city and her comfort zone.

With nothing to rely on but her grit and determination, Ruby has to outsmart the men chasing Sophie and her mom—discovering that whether or not you succeed, trying to save a friend is never a fool’s errand.

Read part one of this middle-grade Beat Street Series, The Beat on Ruby’s Street, to learn how Ruby’s story begins.


This is the second book in the series, but I did not read the first one and had little trouble diving into the second. In other words, this can be read fairly well as a stand alone.

Ruby is twelve-years-old and lives with her mother and step-father during the 1950's. It's Summer break, but her best friend, Sophie, has gone missing. Sophie's mother is a well-known comedy writer but has fallen prey to the Blacklist, an unofficial list put out by the government during their hunt for Communists. Sophie's mother is on the run, knowing that a subpoena will force her to either betray her friends and colleagues or land her in jail. Ruby is determined to help Sophie but has some of her own familiar problems to deal with.

This story takes a look at a lesser known point of American history. The author has done her homework and weaves details from the era carefully into the story, bringing the surroundings to life without slowing down the pace. Ruby visits various cities and towns, allowing a broader impression of the time period to unfold. Care is taken to keep the character's speech patterns, concerns and daily activities attune to the historical scene, making this a rich read for those wanting to learn more about the time period. I can only recommend it for classrooms, teachers, group discussions and home schoolers. To make it even more ideal as a learning tool, there are discussion question presented at the end.

As a fictional read for middle graders, I'd recommend it more for the older end of the spectrum. The language fits a twelve-year-old of the time but might prove a little daunting for reluctant readers. The first chapters especially are spent either in Ruby's head or Sophie's letters. The letters are well done and allow Sophie's predicament and personality to come to life and grab the reader. Ruby, however, spends the first chapters explaining the happenings around her (politics, Beat life, Blacklist, her family life) to the reader and herself. It's interesting and explains the setting, which readers otherwise wouldn't understand. But again, more reluctant readers will struggle. Once the story gets going, the book hooks and holds until the last page.

Ruby is a character to love or dislike. She's a kid with lots of spunk, tons of freedom and is very outspoken. At times, she was easy to connect to. Other moments, she was simply rude and forced her way around, and not necessarily in a good way. Still, the message brought across sit and inspire young readers to stand for what they believe. And the friendship between Sophie and Ruby is golden.

This as a great read for older middle graders and tweens, when brought in connection with the desire to learn more about this historical era.

And here she is...

Jenna Zark is a columnist, lyricist, playwright, and novelist. Her play A Body of Water was published by Dramatists Play Service and produced regionally after its debut at Circle Repertory Company in New York. Other plays were produced in the Twin Cities, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and St. Louis. As a former staff writer at Scholastic Choices magazine, Zark wrote extensively for middle school and junior high students. Columns, poetry, essays, and articles have been published in TC Jewfolk, Stoneboat literary magazine, Minnesota Bride and numerous other publications. Zark is also a member of a lyricist’s collective in the Twin Cities that performs at local cabarets. She’s still trying to figure out if it’s harder to write a play, a novel, or a song. To share your thoughts on that or to learn more, please visit jennazark.com.

Social Media Links
Author Website: http://jennazark.com

*Find The Beat on Ruby’s Street*


Natalie Aguirre said...

Good to know that you can pick this up without reading book 1 in the series. I hadn't heard of this series before but it sounds good.

DMS said...

I am glad you were able to dive right into this book without reading the first one. This series is new to me- so thanks for sharing. :)