Middle School Monday: Not Really Book Reviews by Julie Stivers
No matter how fast I read, there are always new releases, important books on education and youth, and possible class texts to review/pick. This summer, my goal was a book a day. As you can probably guess, that goal was a bit bold, but I have been making some headway with my TBR pile. For the rest of the summer, I’d love to talk about some of these titles. [I’d also love your help with making more reasonable goals.]
These talks won’t really be book reviews. I’ll always link to a traditional literary/critical review, and I have several promises on what I’ll always try to include:
- How I’m planning on using the title in my library for the coming year.
- The race/ethnicity of the main characters for every book, not treating white as the norm.
- An excerpt from the book, in the hopes that it will be helpful in making readers’ advisory suggestions. Author’s style can be a great piece in helping to solve RA puzzles!
I have a bad habit of focusing on YA and I’ve tried to be more intentional about reading more MG/upper elementary. When I saw Dara Palmer’s Major Drama by Emma Shevah (2016) at the public library, I grabbed it. I loved the cover. Covers matter—my students should be able to walk into a library that is filled with covers that reflect reality. The reality of our school and, well, reality. Period.
For a critical review, check out SLJ’s take here. I agree with their starred review, as I found Dara’s awakening story of school plays and complicated family dynamics to be charming.
Hand this book to your fans of humor, theatre, and Dork Diaries! In addition to using this title as a great read-alike for that popular series, I’m thrilled to have another great option for my new sixth graders who are dipping their toes into older middle school collections. [Dara is in fifth grade and popular thinking is that students can be resistant to reading about characters who are younger than they are. (I’m not sure that’s always true.) Even so, the inside flap of the novel doesn’t mention fifth grade—instead it only references middle school, so I still think this book can work for sixth graders.]
Dara and her close friend, Vanna, were both born in Cambodia and adopted by white families. All other major characters are white. There is a lot for students to relate to here, from transracial adoption to sibling rivalry.
Excerpt: “She was thin, and delicate as well, as if she was only half a person. I was quite solid and muscly and looked like a person and a half. If we were twins, I’d totally believe that I’d stole all her food when we were in the womb. And she had these big, starey, soundless eyes. Not that my eyes are noisy but they kind of are. They’re like overexcited squirrels singing karaoke to loud music in the middle of a riot.” (Shevah, 74).
Dara’s clear voice is one of the selling points of this novel. I highly recommend purchasing it for your middle school collection.
What books have you read this week that you’d recommend?
Filed under: Middle School Monday
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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