Insides and Outsides, a guest post by Sashi Kaufman
Everyone knows you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But everyone does it. Especially in middle school. When I was in middle school I was obsessed with my proverbial cover. I wore my hair a certain way. I tried to talk with the Boston accent that the cool kids had -yes that’s right – I faked an accent. I dropped some of my caring sincere friends for kids who seemed cooler. Kids who talked to boys, didn’t listen to their parents all the time and didn’t care about their grades. I don’t really have to tell you that it didn’t end well. Thankfully, my real friends took me back when we departed the purgatory known as middle school and I came to my senses.
Speaking of going back. I’ve been a middle school teacher for the past 18 years. I think it’s still the age group I understand and relate to on some fundamental level. I’m sure it’s many people’s idea of a nightmare; going to middle school every day for the rest of your life. What can I say, I’m a sucker for adolescent angst. Currently I have a daughter in middle school so my life is middle school drama at home and middle school drama at work. One of the battles I face with my daughter is about a sweatshirt. She has a favorite sweatshirt that she wants to wear every day. I wish she wouldn’t. “You’re the only one who cares,” she tells me. And I wonder if that’s true. I’m scared that if she wears the same sweatshirt everyday that no one will want to be friends with her. And then I stop and think about the message I’m sending her. Your sweatshirt, your outsides, matter more than your insides. Who are these imaginary kids who will spurn her for wearing the same sweatshirt? Are these the kids I want to be her friends?
I have a project that I do every year at the beginning of the year where my students create a self portrait based on their interests and hobbies. I call it a self portrait of your insides. I always start by reminding them to never compare their insides to other people’s outsides. It’s especially hard in this era of social media -where people plaster images of their outsides all over the internet. Everyone else is having the best birthday party, vacation, or trampoline playdate. Or in my world; everyone else has the cleanest house and the nicest furniture. Also their kids get along ALL the time.
My new book, Sardines, is a middle grade story about a 6th grader named Lucas who is dealing with big challenges. His older brother died and his mom is struggling with her mental health in the aftermath. Lucas feels very isolated and imagines that everyone else has a perfect camera-ready life. Lucas finds and connects with a group of kids in his aftercare program and the more time he spends with him, the more he learns he can trust them to see his less than perfect insides. He learns that everyone has less than perfect insides. These are the kinds of friends I want for both my kids. These are the kinds of friends I’ve sought and surrounded myself with my whole life. Well, at least my whole life since middle school.
Meet the author
Sashi Kaufman writes books for kids and teens. She is a middle school English and science teacher who lives in Cumberland, Maine with her family. She is also an amateur trash picker. Find out more about her at www.sashikaufman.com.
In this affecting middle grade debut, perfect for fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Lynda Mullaly Hunt, a boy finds unexpected friendship in a motley group of kids following a devastating loss.
Nothing’s been the same since Lucas’s older brother died. After the accident, Lucas’s mom disappeared without any warning, and his dad is struggling to cope. Lucas is pretty much alone—except for the other kids he meets at his middle school’s aftercare program.
There’s Cat, the star athlete; Robbie, the goofball; Anna, the popular girl; and Finn, the mysterious new kid. Between games of Sardines, a reverse hide-and-seek, the kids realize that each group member has a secret wish. If they work together, the group might be able to help make each person’s dream come true. But for that to happen, Lucas will have to find the strength to trust his new friends with his family’s secrets.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/18/2022
Age Range: 8 – 12 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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