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The Fruit Bowl Project    by Sarah Durkee order for
Fruit Bowl Project
by Sarah Durkee
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Teacher Ms. Vallis is a self-admitted dork at West Side Middle School. She has loads of enthusiasm, a stick-up-for-the-student attitude, and a consistent 'Good morning, happy young people!' start-of-the-day greeting (students are known to groan from the back of the room). Ms. Vallis is not seen as hip, so when she announces that she has invited her husband's cousin to come to her 8th Grade Writers' Workshop, there are mixed emotions and questions - some students are excited, while others haven't a clue as to the identity of musical icon Nick Thompson.

The star arrives with an 'exuberant greeting of, "G'morning, tortured pawns of the New York City school system!"' Nick catches students' attention when he speaks of his own writing as 'pretty crappy' and 'garbage'. Ms. Vallis asks him the question, 'When you sit down to write, just as everyone in this class sits down to write ... what is it that makes a Nick Thompson song a Nick Thompson song?' Nick's answer - 'A song's just a bowl of fruit, and I've just gotta figure out how to paint it ... words are to a writer what paint is to a painter.' He gives them a writing assignment relating to a formula 'Bowl of Fruit - The Immutable Truth', which he chalks on the board. Story contents are formed by an outline of words Nick is given by the eighth-graders, including 'School, 6th Grade, Reading Test, Pencil, Lunch, and Nose Milk.' Students are given a two-week deadline to develop their own versions of 'The Fruit Bowl Project'.

The writing assignment gains momentum and passion. The project develops through stories in rap, screenplay, fairytale, comic strip, sonnet, puzzle-form, and more, each blossoming into a unique fruit. Some are long in prose, e.g. Cassie DiGiovanni's three-and-a-half pages of 'Chatty' - 'The funniest thing happened this morning at school! There were a lot of people - well, not really people, I mean kids, not that kids aren't people, but you know, younger ... I'm sorry, this is taking a really long time to tell ... wait! I'm almost done! Wait! ...' Others are short as in 'Limerick by Corey Lewis / With thumbs that were barely Prehensile / An oafish young lad flipped a Pencil / When his nuggets got shot / With some chocolate milk snot / He cracked up like all sixth-grade gents'll.' Even shorter is 'Haiku by Maeve Gillis / A pencil is dropped / Small sword in a small battle / Ending in nose milk'.

Sarah Durkee's first book offers a delightful, ingenious, and entertaining lesson in writing. Durkee is also an Emmy-winning children's television songwriter and scriptwriter, rock lyricist, playwright, poet, and comedy writer, all adding up to a winning combination in their own write ... right?

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