Goodreads: Absolutely Almost
Albie has always been an “almost”–almost getting the answers right on the test, almost having his artwork chosen for display, almost getting to do the science fair. But almost isn’t good enough, or so his father says. Will Albie ever be good at anything or will he have to resign himself to always almost making his parents proud?
Story book heroes, even the average ones, tend to possess at least one talent or trait that sets them apart, whether that means a penchant for puzzles or a knack for baking. Everyone, the message is, is special. Everyone has a talent. Lisa Graff takes that formula and upends it, presenting a character bad at school, bad at art, bad at deciphering social cues. Albie has no special powers, he claims. He’s simply a kid who likes doughnuts.
Albie, of course, really is special. He is thoughtful and kind and caring–and many of the other characters acknowledge those traits. However, Albie knows all too well that society often does not care how kind you are, if you can’t do math or read at grade level. Albie is always a disappointment and the adults in his life do not hide that from him.
This book is that kind that tugs at the heart, the real kind that portrays adults who try to help the children in their lives, but who all too often fail. Adults who do not understand and have no idea how to listen. Adults who assume the viewpoint of a child holds no value. Adults who give up because they are tired of failing. No easy answers on how to fix a life are presented here. Instead, Graff presents life in all its messy complexity.
Albie’s story continues to haunt me, even weeks after I first read it. His story is one that I suspect all too many children share–feelings of helplessness, failure, and disappointment. Wishes that someone would care. Acceptance that they will always be alone. He is, however, a real “relatable” character–the kind children can sympathize with if they believe they will never discover their own latent powers of deduction, glass blowing, bowling, or what have you. And maybe, just maybe, reading Albie’s story will help them to write their own.