Honestly Elliott

by Gillian McDunn (Author)

Honestly Elliott
Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Highly-acclaimed author of Caterpillar Summer, Gillian McDunn explores boyhood in a funny, big-hearted story about a kid trying to find the best way to be his best self.

Elliott has been struggling since his closest friend moved away, and he's not too sure where he fits into his own family, especially since his newly remarried dad and stepmom are expecting a baby. His grades aren't too great, he's always forgetting things, and he doesn't really like sports. All together, the result is someone the complete opposite of his dad--a fact they're both very aware of.

Elliott's only solace is cooking, where he can control the outcome, testing exciting recipes and watching his favorite cooking shows. When he's paired with the super smart and popular Maribel for a school-wide project, Elliott worries they won't see eye to eye. But Maribel is also looking for a new way to show others her true self and this project could be the chance they've both been waiting for. Sometimes the least likely friends help you see a new side to things . . . and sometimes you have to make a few mistakes before you figure out what's right.

Acclaim for Caterpillar Summer

  • An Indies Introduce Pick
  • A Texas Bluebonnet Selection
  • A Parents Best Book of the Year
  • A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Year

Publisher's Weekly

Starred Review
After being rebuffed by his friends for interrupting and becoming distracted, aspiring chef Elliott, who is white and has ADHD, partners with perfectionistic schoolmate Maribel, cued as Latinx, who has celiac disease, to establish a gluten-free pie business for a final school project. Upping the stakes is Elliott’s hope of earning enough money selling pies during the year-end festival to reimburse his father for a window broken during The Incident—something Elliott refuses to discuss even with his therapist—which he’d otherwise have to fund from the savings he’s painstakingly set aside to attend summer cooking camp. The sixth graders’ initially rocky partnership gives way to camaraderie and trust as they develop their recipe for a delicious, gluten-friendly product that proves their critics wrong. Interjecting footnotes that mimic the way Elliott’s brain processes information, McDunn (These Unlucky Stars) offers an affirming and nuanced depiction of empathetic and creative Elliott’s experience of ADHD, including the way his executive dysfunction can result in disorganization, impulsivity, resistance to change, and low self-worth. Elliott’s relationship with his father, from whom he craves acceptance despite his dad’s failure to acknowledge Elliott’s specific challenges, is particularly inspiring as the two work toward openness and understanding. Ages 8–11. Agent: Marietta Zacker, Gallt & Zacker Literary. (Mar.)

Review quotes

"Starring a sweet and messy kid tackling problems that will bring laughter and tears, Honestly Elliott has all the ingredients for a memorable story." —Lynne Kelly, author of SONG FOR A WHALE

"McDunn is a master at creating characters that are fun, flawed, and above all, real. Full of humor and heart, Honestly Elliott is honestly and truly middle-grade at its best." —Jess Redman, author of THE MIRACULOUS and THE ADVENTURE IS NOW

"In a droll, engaging, self-effacing, and disarmingly open voice, Elliott narrates his story, providing realistic, firsthand insights into living with ADHD. A refreshingly honest exploration of family and friendship." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Middle schoolers will laugh, and maybe even cry, as they follow along with Elliott as he stumbles through his days and finally finds a place of comfort for his warm heart and special way of approaching life. This title will be a winner for any reader looking for a story that reads like it could be about a real kid they might know." —School Library Connection

"McDunn offers a warmhearted, nuanced look at a slightly lonely child. . . . genuine and engaging. . . . Heartfelt and appealing." —Kirkus Reviews, on THESE UNLUCKY STARS

"McDunn portrays the intertwined emotional lives of middle-school kids with sensitivity and precision. . . . An insightful story of friendship and change." —Booklist, starred review, on THE QUEEN BEE AND ME

"Meg's first-person narration is emotive and candid. . . . Refreshingly genuine." —Kirkus Reviews on THE QUEEN BEE AND ME

"McDunn deftly sketches Meg's struggles amid seventh grade's unspoken social order. . . . Readers will identify with the pitch-perfect middle school dynamics." —Publishers Weekly on THE QUEEN BEE AND ME

"An engaging, honest book—I love Cat, and you will, too!" —Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Newbery Honor-winning author of THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE on CATERPILLAR SUMMER

"I could almost smell the ocean air as I read Gillian McDunn's Caterpillar Summer. What a beautiful story of family, forgiveness, life on an island, and growing up." —Kate Messner, author of BREAKOUT and THE SEVENTH WISH on CATERPILLAR SUMMER

"An engrossing, heartwarming, beautifully written debut about building and rebuilding family ties." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review, on CATERPILLAR SUMMER

"McDunn's poignant, gratifying debut about friendship and family encourages both empathy and hope." —Publishers Weekly, starred review, on CATERPILLAR SUMMER

Gillian McDunn

Gillian McDunn is the author of These Unlucky Stars, The Queen Bee and Me, and Caterpillar Summer, which received two starred reviews, and was selected for the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List, and Kirkus Reviews and Parents magazine Best Books of the Year lists. When she isn't reading or writing, she is probably baking gluten-free treats, traveling, or spending time with her family. She lives near Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband and children, and a very silly dog named Friday.


Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
March 20, 2022

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