Third Grade Angels (Fourth Grade Rats #1)

by Jerry Spinelli (Author)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
George, aka "Suds," has just entered third grade, and he's heard the rhyme about "first grade babies/second grade cats/third grade angels/fourth grade rats," but what does this mean for his school year? It means that his teacher, Mrs. Simms, will hold a competition every month to see which student deserves to be awarded "the halo" - which student is best-behaved, kindest to others, and, in short, perfect. Suds is determined to be the first to earn the halo, but he's finding the challenge of always being good to be more stressful than he had anticipated. Does he have to be good even outside of school? (Does he have to be nice to his annoying little sister?) And if Mrs. Simms doesn't actually see him doing a good deed, does it even count? 

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School Library Journal

Gr 2–4—George's nickname is "Suds" because he heads for a bubble bath whenever he's feeling "chipmunky." He's in the third grade now, and the schoolyard chant goes: "First grade babies! Second grade cats! Third grade angels! Fourth grade rats!" The quest to be the first to earn the class cardboard halo for angelic behavior drives Suds headfirst into the competition—picking up trash, mastering cursive, and holding doors open, even for boys. He dives into the street to save a dog, but wonders if anyone saw it. Was his "slam dunk" of a good deed wasted? The race for the halo is further complicated because Suds can't see the progress of his opponents—err, classmates. As listeners are questioning Suds's motivation, the story ends with a magnificent act of selflessness and purity of spirit. Spinelli's prequel (2012) to Fourth Grade Rats (1991, both Scholastic) is as sweet and amusing as it's almost perfect hero. Johnny Heller's enunciation is slightly too precise for a third grader, but his expression is perfect. At the end of the story, there's an interview with Spinelli that might be above the heads of the target audience. An enjoyable chapter book.—Jane Newschwander, Fluvanna County Public Schools, VA 

Copyright 2013 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.


Review quotes


"Spinelli doesn't miss a beat in recreating the characters from [Fourth Grade Rats]... Sweet and funny." — KIRKUS REVIEWS

"Third-graders are notoriously competitive, and Spinelli has his finger on the pulse of that age group. Suds's first-person account rings true." — HORN BOOK

"This beginning chapter book moves at an enjoyably brisk pace; readers will appreciate the familiar school and home settings, and they'll look forward to meeting the characters again in a forthcoming book. A story kids will relate to, with valuable, down-to-earth messages about character and motives." — SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
Jerry Spinelli
Jerry Spinelli won the Newbery Medal in 1991 for Maniac Magee, one of his more than 25 acclaimed books for young readers. He now lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Eileen Spinelli, who is also an author of children's books.
Jennifer A. Bell has illustrated almost a dozen children's books, including Little Dog, Lost, When Dad Says "I Love You", and the Stella Batts series. Her work has also appeared in magazines and on greeting cards. She lives with her husband and son in Toronto, Ontario. Visit her online at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication date
July 20, 2014
Fourth Grade Rats
BISAC categories
JUV019000 - Juvenile Fiction | Humorous Stories
JUV035000 - Juvenile Fiction | School & Education
JUV039000 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | General
Library of Congress categories
Conduct of life
JUVENILE FICTION / Social Issues / Friendship
JUVENILE FICTION / School & Education

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