On the surface, Save Me a Seat is book about bullying. But there is so much more. It’s a book about different perspectives, told by two boys from different cultures. It’s a book about friendship. It’s a book about classroom dynamics. It’s a book about Indian food!
Ravi’s family has just immigrated from India. He speaks perfect English, yet no one in the 4th grade can understand his thick accent. Even his teacher mispronounces his name. His parents dote on him, seeing him “sharp and shining like the sun,” but his transition to Albert Einstein Elementary School is rough. As Ravi puts it, “…after three days at Albert Einstein Elementary School, I am no longer the same person I used to be.” That Ravi was confident, maybe even cocky, secure in his place in the social order. The new Ravi is none of those.
Joe is a large boy with auditory processing disorder (APD). Some people think he is slow or lazy, but really his sensory system just doesn’t work correctly. He gets teased for struggling in school, and for his huge appetite. Luckily, he has Miss Frost – and her M&Ms – in his corner, the resource teacher who helps him manage his APD. But even with her support, Joe is struggling, especially with the school bully, Dillon Samreen. “I hate that kids think I’m dumb and that teachers don’t like me. I hate being afraid to raise my hand even when I know the answer. I hate that I’m taller than everyone else in my class, including my teacher, and that the only real friend I have is a dog. Most of all I hate Dillon Samreen, because he never, ever lets me forget who I am.”
Through these struggles, these two misfits – or zebras as they call themselves – manage to become friends and allies in the fight against Dillon. Best of all, the whole wild story only takes 216 pages.
Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan move the story briskly back and forth between these two boys’ perspectives. All chapters are written in the first person, showing Joe’s and Ravi’s perspectives on events and each other. The story builds to an unexpected conclusion involving mechanical pencils, boxer shorts, leeches, and a fresh batch of cookies. And in the end, it all comes down to a double blue M&M…