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Children's Fiction Adolescence

Words That Start With B

by (author) Vikki VanSickle

Scholastic Canada Ltd
Initial publish date
Sep 2010
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2010
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 11 to 13
  • Grade: 5 to 9


Wit and humour shine in this debut novel by a refreshing new voice in middle-grade fiction!

Clarissa Delaney had a plan — this was going to be her year. But so far, grade seven sucks.

First of all, her favourite teacher has gone on sabbatical, leaving her with Mr. Campbell, whose lame sense of humour is completely annoying. Everyone in class drives her crazy, except for her best friend, Benji, but even he is troubled these days. His gentle demeanour has made him the target of threats and some serious bullying. Mr. Campbell hasn't even noticed, which only feeds Clarissa's resentment.

But the worst news comes at home.

Her loving mom, who runs a hair salon out of their home, has always had a gift for lifting everyone's spirits when they're down. But an upsetting diagnosis takes her away temporarily, just when Clarissa needs her the most.

Readers will laugh through their tears, as Clarissa finds her bravest self to get her through this year of surprises.

About the author


Vikki VanSickle
écrit des livres et des pièces de théâtre pour les enfants. Elle est
diplômée de théâtre de l'Université de Queens, et de littérature pour
enfants de l'Université de Colombie-Britannique. Elle possède une solide
expérience dans le domaine des camps de vacances : elle travaille dans les
camps organisés par le théâtre local, mais aussi comme conseillère et
directrice d'activités au Camp Rimp Rock de Virginie Occidentale. Elle a
participé à plusieurs comédies musicales, et elle a dirigé, en 2005, la
production de Crazy for You. Ses écrits ont été publiés dans
Chameleon, un magazine pour enfants.


VIKKI VANSICKLE is the author of Words That Start With B, Love Is a Four-Letter Word, Days That End in Y and Summer Days, Starry Nights, which was nominated for a Red Maple Award. She is an active member of the children's literature community, presenting at academic conferences, reviewing books, and managing her popular children's lit blog. Currently, she splits her time between writing and working in marketing and publicity. Vikki lives in Toronto, Ontario. Visit her online at

Vikki VanSickle's profile page


  • Short-listed, CBA Libris Awards - Young Reader Book of the Year
  • Commended, Best Books for Kids and Teens, Canadian Children's Book Centre
  • Commended, IODE Canada Violet Downey Recommended List

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Words That Start With B:

Shortlisted, CBA Libris Awards — Young Reader Book of the Year, 2011CCBC Best Books for Kids and Teens, 2011Recommended, IODE Violet Downey Book Award, 2011

"A well-crafted and enjoyable first effort from a writer who is obviously tuned into the minds and emotions of young teens." —Quill & Quire

"Clarissa and Benji offer a fresh, honest look at life as an outsider, when you don't quite belong and don't quite know who you are. They're funny and relatable and exactly the kind of characters kids should be reading in today's It Gets Better age." —CBC Books

"A fresh and honest look at a girl's school year in that wonderful, horrible, confusing time known as Grade Seven." —Canadian Bookseller Magazine

"Words That Start With B is the story of how a feisty girl battles a year of surprises, if not with grace, then with a lot of humour." —Open Book Toronto

Librarian Reviews

Words That Start With B

Clarissa Delaney and her best friend Benji are on tenterhooks as they prepare to start Grade 7. Will they finally get to be in the wonderful Miss Ross’s class? Clarissa feels she has been waiting for this day for almost her whole life. When she finds out that Miss Ross is on sabbatical and goofy Mr. Campbell will be teaching 7B in her place, she can scarcely contain her disappointment.

Grade 7 holds other absurdities as well — Michael Greenblatt’s mystifying behaviour, for instance, and annoying Mattie Cohen’s persistent attempts to act like they are friends. Then there is tough guy Terry DiCarlo who seems to have it in for Benji. As hard as Benji tries to avoid him, Terry goes out of his way to harass him, and his menacing behaviour becomes increasingly cruel. But when Clarissa’s mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, this bombshell overshadows all the other traumas in her life.

Feisty, forthright and so very true-to-life, Clarissa is a delightful and heartwarming protagonist who perfectly embodies the typical 13-year-old girl. Her bouts of sullenness punctuated by bursts of melodrama, her conviction that even her own mother doesn’t understand her and doesn’t care, and her touching inability to keep up with her own ever-changing emotions… all of these things brilliantly capture the awkwardness and uncertainty of this tumultuous time in a young girl’s life. The supporting characters are equally winsome — even the contemptible Mr. Campbell — and author Vikki VanSickle exquisitely depicts the mother-daughter relationship that is at the heart of this story. Beautiful is another word that starts with B… and beautifully-written is a perfect word to describe this book!

Source: The Canadian Children's Bookcentre. Winter 2011. Volume 34 No. 1.

Words That Start with B

Grade Seven was going to be Clarissa’s year. That was until her favourite teacher went on sabbatical and her best friend, Benji, was targeted by bullies. Now Clarissa’s mom needs medical treatments just when Clarissa needs her the most. How is a 12-year-old girl supposed to survive it all?

Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. 2011.

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