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The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z

3.91  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,021 Ratings  ·  180 Reviews
Gianna Z has less than one week to collect, identify, and creatively display 25 leaves for her science project-or else she won't be able to compete in the upcoming cross-country sectionals race. As the deadline for her leaf project draws near, life keeps getting in the way. Some things are within Gee's control, like her own procrastination, but others aren't, like Biana Ri ...more
ebook, 0 pages
Published September 14th 2010 by Walker Childrens (first published September 1st 2009)
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Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Joan Stradling for

If Gianna Zales doesn't finish her seventh-grade leaf collection project in time, her spot in the cross country sectionals will be filled by her nemesis. Though she had plenty of time to do the project, Gianna left it until the last minute.

It doesn't help her state of mind that her father drives her to school in a hearse, her grandmother keeps forgetting things, and her mother pretends like nothing is wrong.

This fall will be a disaster if Gianna can
May 12, 2009 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z is just that... brilliant. With solid pacing, a lovable main character, and profoundly important undertones, Messner seamlessly articulates the conflicting emotions of Gianna, track star extraordinaire, artist, friend, daughter, and granddaughter. Though it may seem a bit young for the savvy reader, in part due to the charming, light-hearted cover, I urge readers of all ages to give this one a shot. It's one of the most moving, unforgettable stories of love and fam ...more
Jun 05, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children
Best middle-school voice (written for a middle-school audience) that I've read recently! I thought all of the conflicts, from the minor (homework avoidance) to the major (ailing grandmother) were really well-done and true to life. The mean-girl situation was spot-on.
April Suter
May 19, 2016 April Suter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first I was really angry at the parents who seemed to put their needs first and still berate Gianna for not getting her leaf project done. Gianna's world is changing: her best friend, Zig, is looking at her different; her grandmother is fading away; and the pressures of getting homework done and staying on the track team with a nasty middle-schooler girl wanting her spot on the team. This is a great book to read about balancing life, remembering the past and looking forward to the future.
Denise Krebs
I read the book The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner. Gianna is a delightful character—she’s an artist, a runner, and a bit disorganized. Sometimes she has a hard time focusing on things she has to do for school, like the all-consuming leaf collection project for science. However, she is always busy with important and “genius” work—like splatter painting her room and painting other pictures inspired by the masters. She wears her feelings on her sleeve, as does her beloved Nonna, her m ...more
I really wished I'd liked this more, but there were too many things that I think the author tried to do at the same time for it to work. Take, for example, Gianna's procrastination/inability to organize. I thought we'd get some AD/HD information, but no. Or perhaps her mother was afraid that with Nonna showing signs of Alzheimers, that Gianna was acting a little too like Nonna? Again, no.

The leaf identification project really seemed interesting, and I wish more information about the different t
Sep 23, 2009 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s-books
Up front, I have to disclose that I know Kate personally, and that she very kindly handed me a signed copy of the ARC for her forthcoming novel when I saw her at the New England SCBWI Conference. You might assume that, with Kate being a friend, I'd be predisposed to want to like her novel, and you'd be correct. You might assume that with her being a friend, if I'm mentioning her novel in a public forum such as this, I'm going to say that I like it.

You'd be wrong.

Because this novel? I love it.

Nov 12, 2011 Angie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took me a while but I finally got to this one.

Have a third grade teacher who read Marty McGuire to her kiddos and then started this one. She asked me at lunch because she was concerned about a couple lines that intimated at "something" between Gianna and Zig. So, I told her I'd read it over the weekend.

So glad I did! I am happy to report that there is no need to worry about finishing this one with her kiddos. The story is so much more ... Gianna and her best friend, Gianna and her mom, Gianna an
Jun 20, 2010 Sherry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gianna has never been one to do things in a timely manner; so when her science project is close to being due, she relies on her trusty friends to help her, only this time Gianna will have to take the fall.

Messner does a great job of incorporating science and medical terminology throughout this book. I love how she describes each leaf in detail and the tree on which it was retrieved. She describes what it feels like to watch someone you love slowly wither away until there is nothing left.

Jo Lynn Loewenkamp
I really liked this book; bought it mainly because of "Gianna" in the title, when I saw it in one of the Scholastic orders. Finally talked Anika into reading it with me. She was intimidated by the size of the book and the smaller than usual font, so we alternated reading, and also both read other books in between, but we both really liked the book. It involved an Italian family heritage, death of a classmate's grandparent, an aging grandparent with Alzheimer's as a likely diagnosis, mean kids at ...more
I read (or start to) this book to my kids every year! Sometimes they catch on, sometimes it falters...but I LOVE this book. It so perfectly captures just the "right" group of kids.
Vernon Area Public Library KIDS
Jul 25, 2016 Vernon Area Public Library KIDS rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Grades 4 through 6
We all know what it is like to have a big school project to to do. Gianna has that on her plate and more. If she doesn't complete her science assignment in time (collecting, identifying and providing information about 25 leaves), her nemesis Bianca will take her place at the cross-country meet sectionals. And that absolutely can NOT happen. Add in some difficult family moments (Gianna's grandma Nonna is experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease) and you've got a winner of a book.

Aug 03, 2016 H rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-bluestem
I cried buckets over this book, which covers a few weeks in the life of Gianna Zales, a 7th grader living in a small Vermont town. Gianna is a runner, a dreamer, and an artist. She is always late with assignments, and trails disorganization around her, and her science grade rests on a project that she just can't seem to get together, and she could lose her spot at the cross country sectionals to the school mean girl if she can't turn it in. But life - her beloved Nonna seems to be growing more a ...more
Oct 11, 2014 Ixris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I spent a long time wondering who the ideal reader for this book was. As I neared the end it became obvious: Average girls who are going through a lot of crap in their lives and need to hear that it could be okay, even if it's scary, because that's life.

My biggest gripe about this book is that all the characters feel two-dimensional, like they're fresh from the stock room. Everyone has their own shtick and heaven help you, they might not be their own selves if they're not doing their shtick ever
Jul 21, 2014 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sad, funny, realistic story about family and the decline of a grandparent’s health. Gianna is looking forward to competing in the Cross Country sectionals in two weeks. The only thing holding her back is her science project. Cataloging 25 different types of leaves doesn’t sound hard, but she waited until the last minute and life is not giving her any breaks. As she tries to finish this, her friend Zig starts acting weird, her Nonna is forgetting things and her arc enemy is trying to destroy he ...more
Great story, wonderfully written. Absolutely gorgeous book. 11+

Gianna Z is an artistic-type, and her school's star runner. She lives with her parents, her little brother, and her grandmother (Nonna) in Vermont, where they run a funeral home. Gianna often has a hard time staying focused on school and prefers to be out running track or working on a new art project. Her best efforts to stay ahead fail her and she learns that if she doesn't complete her science project she will be replaced in sectio
Jun 28, 2009 Lkmadigan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved every single thing about this book - Gianna's quirky voice, the colorful personalities of the secondary characters, the gently building tension, the budding romance, and the lovely resolution.

It's clear that Walker Books loves this book, too, because their design is beautiful - I adored the right-side pages of "fluttering leaves" as you turn the pages.

Tweens are going to love this book!
Oct 08, 2012 Kristi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gianna is a great story and I really loved how Kate Messner handled the aging grandmother who is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's. Like FIRE AND ICE, it took me awhile to really fall in love with the MC, but once I did, this story was golden.

Beautiful images of leaves are now in my head, I just wish there was autumn in Singapore...
May 05, 2009 Kate added it  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Well obviously, I've read this one, since I wrote it! Mostly, I'm just celebrating its appearance on GoodReads, even though the book won't be out until September 1st.

Bianca made me almost use some rather inappropriate language in front of my class. We found her quite despicable.

Rereading, February 2014, for Girls Read Book Club.
Nov 25, 2009 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just really simple and sweet, and dare I say age-appropriate? I really believed Gianna was a regular 7th grader and this story definitely felt real.
Michele Knott
Yeah, these characters are going to stick with me for a little while! Kate Messner writes with such an authentic voice for middle grade kids.
Gianna is many things, great runner, funny, friendly, but she is also a procrastinator (to the extreme). If Gianna doesn't complete her leaf project on time, she will not be allowed to participate in her track meet. There are many people rooting for Gianna and helping her, while others are waiting in the wings for her failure. The pressure is even further on because Gianna's grandmother has started to act funny and is beginning to forget major things.

This is a perfect middle school book. The ch
May 04, 2014 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
"But you're an artist. You should know there's more to the story than the part happening right now."

So much is happening in Gianna's life this fall. Though she has easily qualified to run sectionals for cross country, her coach tells her if she doesn't get her Science grade up, she won't be able to run. This means completing her "Leaf Project" on time - something that, though she's known about it for a couple of weeks already, she hasn't started. Thanks goodness for her best friend, Zig, who is
Carol Royce Owen
i'm a huge fan of Kate Messner's books, but somehow this one has been on my shelf for a l-o-n-g time and I never got around to reading it. Finally did something about that today, and i'm so glad that i did. I can't wait to start sharing this with students at my school. I know they are going to fall in love with Gee and her grandma, Nonna.
Gianna is a 7th grader who has some organizational issues when it comes to schoolwork. Despite good intentions and help from her best friend, Zig, she always s
Dec 04, 2009 Melissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Grades 4-7
Seventh grader Gianna Zales loves art and cross-country running. She is not so crazy about research projects or anything involving time-management skills, so although she has known about Mrs. Loring’s leaf project for several weeks, somehow she’s gotten to within a week of the due date without anything to show for it. But how hard can it be to find and catalog 25 different varieties of leaves? Especially in Vermont, where Robert Frost was inspired to write “Birches” and countless other
I adored this book! Gianna in her epic capacity for disorganization and procrastination reminded me of a younger (and thankfully worse) version of myself.

Gianna has left her large leaf identification project until the last few days, as usual. If she doesn't finish on time she won't be able to compete in the big cross-country meet, and she's one of the top runners. Add to this a rival who is trying to take her place on the team, a grandmother who is slipping into early stage Alzheimer's, a mothe
Lisa Nocita
Gianna is a likeable mess with poor organizational skills and time management issues. But what she lacks in good study habits, she more than makes up with her creative, caring, earnest side. She loves her family, especially her Nonna who lives with them. But Nonna is forgetting things lately and her behavior is sometimes erratic which is worrisome to Gianna. And, to top it off, she may miss out on a big cross country meet if her science grade doesn't improve very soon. A big project is due but G ...more
Jun 11, 2011 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, middle-grade
There's a lot going on in Kate Messner's middle grades novel. Gianna has a huge leaf project due next week. She needs to collect, identify, label, and give information about 25 leaves. And while she starts the project and has everybody worrying about it for her, she still can't manage to work on it. Gianna's family is a bit quirky too. Her father is a funeral home director and her Italian grandmother, Nonna, is starting to have problems with her memory. Added to the mix is a collection of middle ...more
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Kate Messner is an award-winning author, TED 2012 speaker, and former middle school English teacher. Her books for kids include THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z.,SUGAR AND ICE, and EYE OF THE STORM (Walker/Bloomsbury Dec. 2010) the MARTY MCGUIRE series (Scholastic), SEA MONSTER'S FIRST DAY, and OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW (Chronicle, Books). Kate also wrote SPITFIRE and CHAMPLAIN AND THE SILENT ONE, bot ...more
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“I love early snow now, though. Especially snow that happens when you least expect it and just sprinkles down for a while. It feels like a secret.” 1 likes
“But you're an artist. you should know there's more to a story than the part happening right now.” 1 likes
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