Hidden Acres is a pleasant subdivision full of nice houses, young children, and middle-class parents. Underneath the façade of peace, however, lie old grudges, tragedies, and mysteries. Who, for example, stole Mr. Pasternak’s wheelchair? Why is the bus driver Mrs. Teresa Birch (known as Mrs. B) stopping at an empty shed on her bus route this year? What happened at the high school graduation years ago that sent Mr. Pasternak’s son to the hospital and left him mentally damaged and confined to a nursing home? With amazing skill, J. B. Cheaney weaves her children’s story Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous into a book full of laughter and tears, mystery and adventure.
Nine children on Mrs. B’s bus form the focal point of this narrative. Exuberant Shelly Alvarez aspires to be a famous singer. Very much the drama queen, Shelly is usually either the poster child for optimism or for despair. Shelly’s friend Miranda is kind, dependable, a good writer, and hard-working, usually performing the brunt of any work that Shelly needs done. What Miranda wants most of all is to be Shelly’s best friend, not just her “bus friend.” The brainy kid on the bus is Spencer Haggerty, destined to become a genius (according to his mother), but worried that he’s not. Spencer’s friend Jay Pasternak plans to become a famous football player and loves spending time with his grandfather – yes, the one whose wheelchair was stolen. Igor Sanderson wants to be noticed, and perhaps this is why he loves playing pranks and making jokes. Living in the shadow of his older brother’s fame, Bender Thompson is disgruntled and friendless, but underneath his unwelcoming manner, he hides a talent for mathematics. Shy Matthew Tupper is also friendless, and almost everyone ignores him. In fact, no one realizes how smart he is until he wins the school science fair with a project on “Black Holes and White Dwarfs.” Like Matthew, Alice is rather shy, and, being new to the neighborhood, has no friends. This changes however when Kaitlynn, the bounciest and most talkative character of the story, befriends Alice, and they begin carrying out Kaitlynn’s harebrained schemes and writing stories together. Over the course of a school year, the reader learns about these nine children, experiences their successes and disasters, discovers their flaws and talents, and grows to like each and every one of them.
A mystery and an adventure that is both fun and fulfilling, Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous is one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read. It has an interesting story and compelling characters and explores complex topics like friendship, family, forgiveness, vocations, and tragedy. To embark on an exciting and entertaining adventure, read Somebody on This Bus Is Going to Be Famous by J. B. Cheaney.