Defining Greatness

The Greatest Kid in the World by John David Anderson

We hear the word “great” all of the time. For some of us teachers, it’s the generic word that comes out of our mouthes as we respond to a story, or we write it on the top of graded work. Other times it might sarcastically roll off a tongue as a far from excited response. And yet other times it might be that one word adjective to describe a truly amazing experience. With that said, how does one define if their own kid is great? Are they helpful? Good at chores? Do they commit to never arguing with their siblings?

You may have a vision in your head of who, or what, you would argue as a “great kid”, and most like, main character Zeke Stalhs would not make the cut. So when the letter came in the mail that he was one of the five finalists in a contest for the World’s Greatest Kid, you can imagine his surprise…and the surprise of everyone else who knows Zeke. He’s known as a trouble maker and a prankster, so it was a big surprise to him and his family when he was nominated. But despite his flaws, you root for him. You root for the kid who lost his dad, you root for the kid whose mom works all the time to make ends meet, you root for the kid who can’t seem to catch a break. But does that make him the Greatest Kid in the World? Even Zeke doesn’t understand, or know, who would nominate him, but the prize money would help his family out a lot, and he decides to enter the contest. Throughout the book he wonders what really does make someone great? And who gets to decide?

As with all of the John David Anderson novels I have read, this one is also going to be a hit. My students will be able to relate to the characters lives and are sure to find a little bit of themselves in Zeke or his siblings, as well.

Educator’s Guide

Thinking about reading The Greatest Kid in the World with your class? Checkout the educators guide here!

From the beloved author of Posted comes the story of Zeke Stahlsa thoroughly average twelve-year-old who somehow finds himself in a competition to be named the World’s Greatest Kid.

Zeke Stahls is not the best kid in the world. Some days he struggles just to be good. He’d rather be pulling pranks than doing extra credit, and he’s too busy performing experiments on his little brother, Nate, or tormenting his older sister, Jackie, to volunteer for charity.

    Which is why Zeke and his entire family are shocked when they receive word that he has been selected as a contestant in an online competition to find the World’s Greatest Kid.

    Zeke has no idea how he was chosen for this, and he knows that measuring up to the other nominees–a saintly lineup of selfless, charming and talented do-gooders with photogenic smiles and hearts of gold–is hopeless. Still, with a $10,000 cash prize on the line, and Zeke’s mom struggling to hold the family together on her single-parent salary, he decides to give it his best shot.

    As Zeke concocts various plots to show the world just how “great” he is, however, he finds himself wondering what that word even means, and who gets to decide. And what kind of kid he wants–and needs–to be.

About the author

John David Anderson is the author of many highly acclaimed books for kids, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last DayPostedGrantedOne Last Shot, and Stowaway. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife, two frawesome kids, and clumsy cat, Smudge, in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at

Read other reviews here:

9-MayUnleashing Readers@unleashreaders
10-MayTeachers Who Read@teachers_read
11-MaySatisfaction for Insatiable Readers@grgenius
12-MayNerdy Book Club@nerdybookclub
13-MayMaria’s Melange@mariaselke
16-MayA Library Mama@librarymama

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *