George and Lilly have always imagined they would be on the same team for the fifth grade Spirit Week competitions, but when they become captains of rival teams, their long-time friendship is suddenly at stake. Worse, the whole fifth grade seems willing to cheat to win.
Unschooled tackles tough questions about the value of friendship and honesty versus the value of winning. It can seem transparently didactic at times, with parents and teachers lecturing about fair play, teamwork, and the responsibility to stand up to bullies and with George and Lilly repeatedly reflecting on these things. However, these moral lessons are balanced by the wild nature of the hijinks the fifth graders engage in to attempt to sabotage the opposing team. The book features secrets, slime, and some pungent egg salad, all guaranteed to capture the attention of young readers. George’s and Lilly’s friendship also brings some levity to the book as they question whether throwing away all the good times they’ve had together is worth the prestige of winning.
Unschooled is likely to be a hit with parents and educators for its message, but young readers will enjoy reading about the pranks played.