The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going
Gabriel King is scared of everything. His many fears include spiders, loose cows, and even his best friend Frita's basement. Frita Wilson is a tough girl and she has every intention of helping Gabriel overcome his fears, especially when one of those is going to the fifth grade. The year is 1976, Frita and Gabriel have just graduated from the fourth grade, and they only have one summer to get rid of all of Gabriel's fears. The Liberation of Gabriel King, by K.L. Going, is about a boy who attempts to be brave with the help of his best friend.
Fifth grade is especially scary to Gabriel because the teachers are rumored to be mean; it's in a separate wing of the school; and sixth graders are located in that wing, too. It wouldn't be so bad if the sixth graders didn't include Duke Evans and Frankie Carmen. Gabriel had spent one year without them torturing him, and he intends to stay in fourth grade so he doesn't have to face the bullies ever again. If it weren't for Frita, he wouldn't even think twice about staying in fourth grade forever. But, Frita is serious about going to the fifth grade. How will Gabriel be able to spend a year without Frita?
Then Frita comes up with a plan to liberate Gabriel King from all of his fears. She makes him write a list of everything that scares him -- 38 fears to be exact. Frita promises that she will stay behind with Gabriel in fourth grade if he does not gain the courage but, in turn, Gabriel has to at least attempt to conquer his terrors.