The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z
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The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z

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3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  645 ratings  ·  138 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
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Published September 14th 2010 by Walker Childrens (first published September 1st 2009)
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Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Joan Stradling for TeensReadToo.com

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...more
Michelle
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
Jessica
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.
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
Kelly
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.

Ka...more
Angie
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...more
Sherry
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.

Although...more
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
Krista
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.
Lkmadigan
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!
Kristi
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...
Kate
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.

Adam
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.
Kate
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.
Diane
"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...more
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...more
Melissa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kim
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...more
CuriousLibrarian
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...more
Lisa
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
Laura
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
Tara Kenny
After reading (and loving) Kate Messner’s Marty Mcguire books (great early readers!) I decided I had to try some of her middle years fiction. The brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. does not disappoint.

Kate Messner puts the perfect voice to paper for all of her main characters. The brilliant fall of Gianna G. follows Gianna through a turbulent month of the fall school year. Gianna is an amazing runner, gifted artist, and completely unorganized when it comes to getting her school work finished.

Life gets...more
Heidi
This was a light read--which is always nice at the end of the Summer Reading Program! I enjoyed the feeling of autumn in the book, and it makes me even more anxious for that wonderful season to commence. I liked the lessons that Gianna learned in the book, and I liked the story and the characters. But I thought it was a bit much for a book that takes place over the course of 8 days. I also noticed some discrepancies in timing and such, but that's the editor in me. I loved that Gianna is a runner...more
Rachael
Because this was on the shelf of books recommended by the librarians, and because there is a quote from Linda Urban (author of one of my MOST favorite books ever) praising this book, I wanted to love it. But I just liked it. It was good; I appreciated the loving relationship Gianna has with her Nonna. I think I'm partly frustrated that it covers such a short period of time. I wanted to know more about what was going to happen with Nonna, and also with the cross country sectionals. However, maybe...more
Holly
I really liked this story of Gianna, a seventh-grader who loves to run and draw. However, she just can't seem to get herself together at school. A huge leaf-collecting project is looming over her head, and she keeps missing deadlines. Bianca, a glittery, narcissistic cross-country teammate constantly bullies her and is next in line to take Gianna's spot at sectionals if Gianna doesn't make a decent grade in science. If that isn't enough pressure, Gianna's beloved granmother, Nonna, is not acting...more
Barb Middleton
I haven't read too many children's books that tackle the process of aging and how it affects family as a main theme, and Messner not only does that in this book, but does it very well. Gianna is the star on the cross country running team, but she has a problem. If she doesn't finish her science project on time, she won't be able to run in sectionals. Bianca, the bully, is waiting to replace her and Gianna has all sorts of distractions from finishing the project such as her Grandma Nonna who is b...more
Dagmar
Gianna Z is a runner and an artist. She is in seventh grade and needs to finish a science project if she wants to run in the cross country sectionals. Bianca, a classmate, desperately wants to take Gianna's place at sectionals. Meanwhile, Gianna's grandmother Nonna, has Alzheimer's. Her family's struggle to cope with her grandmother 's illness is intertwined with Gianna's struggle to finish her project so she can go to sectionals.

I disliked how cliched Gianna's mom, her best friend and the book'...more
Teacher.
Reviewed at my blog: HERE @ Teacher.Mother.Reader Book Blog

The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner is a middle grade fiction book that deals with a very real family situation. Gianna is a very likable character who loves to run and doesn’t enjoy science class. When her class is assigned one of those, leaf collection assignments, Gianna quickly gets overwhelmed. Personally she is dealing with a lot in her family. Her mother is distant and cold, her father is not understanding and business...more
Steph Su
Can you really go wrong with a 2009 middle-grade novel? THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z seems to say that no, you can’t. Kate Messner is a shining voice in middle-grade fiction, and her characters will rank right up there with Sharon Creech’s for best-friend potential.

Messner effortlessly introduces us to the totally normal yet exceptionally charming Zales family within just a few pages. Characterization leaps off the page: Gianna’s mother, father, little brother, and grandmother all sound like t...more
Laura
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...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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