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August 10, 2016
The Great Greene Heist comes to us from author Varian Johnson, who has been—along with his cunning protagonist Jackson Greene—causing quite a stir in the world of middle school fiction.
Many booksellers took on the #GreatGreeneChallenge by competing to sell the most copies of Johnson’s book within the first month of its release. The winning store was promised a treasure chest of assorted goodies—signed books, chocolates, and miscellaneous items—as a reward. But all of the participants, if successful, competed for the chance to witness something profound. According to author Kate Messner, there is still room to “ask for more diversity in children’s literature…not with words and tweets and blog posts alone but also with dollars.” By the time the #GreatGreeneChallenge ended on June 30 (with Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, MA, crowned the winners), readers everywhere realized that the contest was more about the need to celebrate more diversity in children’s literature than anything else.
Bloggers at Scholastic’s own On Our Minds blog had the opportunity to sit down with Varian Johnson to talk about his book’s trending social media efforts and his experience writing it. In the interview, Johnson describes ways he wanted to write a story with both “swagger and sophistication” while trying to celebrate diversity “in a fun way that showcased the characters’ differences without being explicit about those differences.” With that goal in mind, Jackson Greene—and Gang Greene—was born.
Scholastic Reading Club thought it would be nice to share The Great Greene Heist with some of our Teacher Advisors and hear what they thought of the book, its classroom potential, and topical themes. Check out what these two teachers have to say below.
Seema Bagai, 5th Grade Teacher, California
Not all school stories are alike. The Great Greene Heist is a different take on a familiar genre. Author Varian Johnson has embedded a caper story into this novel and takes readers through a series of twists, pranks, and cleverly named cons. Middle school prankster Jackson Greene sets out to save the school election from being bought by an ambitious classmate. This is a funny book with memorable characters and plenty of surprise.
And while it is a light read, there is room for classroom discussions about friendship, honesty, and whether the ends justify the means.
Katie Hartman, 4th Grade Teacher, Pennsylvania
The Great Greene Heist is a clever caper novel that keeps readers guessing from beginning to end. With a diverse cast of characters, each has his or her own individual, endearing traits. Protagonist Jackson Greene is a charming and inventive schemer whose actions show the value of teamwork, planning, and standing up for what’s right. Adolescent readers will love trying to unravel Greene’s plan as he works to ensure a fair and just election for the school’s next student president.
Varian Johnson’s The Great Greene Heist is available now at the Scholastic Reading Club online store! If you’ve read the book, we’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!
August 21, 2014