March 23, 2012

I’ll take ‘spunky kids’ for $200, Alex

By Donna Gephart
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Answer: A heartwarming story about a 12-year-old girl whose biggest wish is to appear on the “Jeopardy!” game show.

Question: What is Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart?

She may not always fit in at her Pennsylvania school, her five-year-old brother is obsessed with gross trivia, her next-door neighbor and classmate, Tucker, annoys her to no end, and her mother’s boyfriend, Neil, moved in when her gambling-addict father fled to California with her former BFF, Nikki, and Nikki’s mom. But Olivia can always count on outscoring most of the “Jeopardy!” contestants from the comfort of her living room every weeknight.

A prized chance to be on the program’s Kids Week not only means realizing her dream but a chance to see her father and Nikki. But just when tryouts occur and Olivia needs an adult’s permission to register, her mother loses her job and takes to her bed, and her father can’t spare time away from the card tables. And just when she’s ready to give up because of her father’s broken promises and her Teflon-coated brain in which geography doesn’t stick, Olivia learns to rely on the family and friends who do support her—from Neil becoming one of her biggest fans to Tucker’s extra geography tutoring—and focus on the parts of herself she can control.

As the plucky and resilient girl tries to figure out the answers to both “Jeopardy!” questions and the problems in her life, her constant, quick-thinking mind full of trivia keeps the story light. Her gifts for memorizing facts and feeling empathy prove that her desire to win is nothing like her father’s ruthless addiction. Fans of the game show will revel in the tryout and on-air details, concluding “Jeopardy!” facts, and even an appearance from Alex Trebek himself.

Olivia’s moment in the spotlight is anything but trivial.

Angela Leeper is director of the Curriculum Materials Center at the University of Richmond.

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Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen

Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen

By Donna Gephart
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
ISBN 9780385740524

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