How could a simple request for a new water fountain go so very, very off-track? When Principal Wally Russ writes to fountain designer Florence Waters to ask her to replace Dry Creek Middle School's busted drinking fountain, he little suspects that he is sparking the imagination of an artiste. Kate Klise's charming mystery novel is told entirely in letters and faxes, as the glamorous Florence visits Dry Creek and becomes friends with Mr. Sam N.'s fifth-grade class. The class helps Florence design the most outrageous water fountain ever, and along the way uncovers the dirty (and rather wet) secret that dwells underneath Dry Creek Middle School. Writes Florence to her new fifth-grade friends, "Your drawings are hanging in my studio. Pure inspiration. Of course a drinking fountain should have tropical fish and chocolate shakes!" The book reads like an inspired combination of the epistolary novels Daddy-Long-Legs and Griffin & Sabine. Line drawings by M. Sarah Klise adorn every page, with "snapshots" of the fifth-grade class, pages from the local paper, and coffee-stained While You Were Out notices thickening the stew. The emphasis on visual elements should make the book a hit with kids who claim they don't like to read. Author Klise knows her audience: bad puns flow as freely as water and the plot is just convoluted enough to challenge kids without frustrating them. The Klise sisters have created a classic of comic children's literature. (Ages 8 and older) --Claire Dederer
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