Friday, April 27, 2012

Guy Friday-- Notebook Novels

Ah, the Notebook Novel. If you deal with middle grade boys, you probably can't keep enough of them around. I don't know whether to laud or asperse Jeff Kinney and his Wimpy Kid books for fueling this trend. Like anything, all sorts of literature are good in moderation. Wimpy Kid books strike me a bit like Reeses Puffs cereal-- it's not real food, so you can't really justify a big bowl for breakfast, but it's better than potato chips for an after school snack. As long as my students are reading other books as well, I'm all for a Friday afternoon spent reading Nora Roberts.... I mean Wimpy Kid. We all have our indulgences.

Anyone need a list of Notebook Novels? I should make one, just have no motivation. The overheads have already started a mini flock, and today is the last day of testing. Everyone should just be glad I am not in my pajamas! I'm hoping they don't use the library for make up testing next week-- a room with an entire wall of glass windows facing the cafeteria and with 11 doors, into which all of the students (who can't read "Keep Out! Testing!" signs) want to flee is not a great place to put five children who need to take a high stakes, let's-all-be-quiet test! Call me crazy.

Peirce, Lincoln. Big Nate Goes for Broke.
Nate is glad that he and his friends have been allowed to put together the only cool club in the school-- the Doodlers. When their advisor says that they need to recruit girls, Nate approaches DeeDee, who (while a bit dramatic) has done awesome posters for the dance. Unfortunately, DeeDee thinks that Nate is asking her to the school dance, so he gets roped into going. While there, Nate is impressed that DeeDee is actually pretty cool-- she tells everyone they are there just as friends, rescues Nate when someone steals his clothes, and generally has fun with him. When their school suffers severe water damage, the students have to have classes in portables at the rival Jefferson Middle School, Nate and his friends vow to beat the overachievers there at something. Nate suffers a broken arm that makes it hard for him to draw, but a little thing like that can't keep a boy like Nate down.
Strengths: Nate is so well-meaning but unlucky that I do adore him. It's hard to write a sympathetic character who gets into trouble all the time, but Peirce does a fantastic job. I like DeeDee's character a lot! He also is very adept at writing a coherent story line, and the drawings are an organic part of the story. These are my favorite notebook novels.
Weaknesses: The school building being closed down, and the rivalry between schools seems unrealistic, but is not annoyingly so.
Patterson, James and Tebbets, Chris. Middle School: Get Me Out of Here.
7 May 2012, Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

When the restaurant at which his mother works burns down, the family moves from Hills Village to the city, where they stay with Rafe's grandmother in her crowded house. Rafe is bummed that he won't be able to go to Airbrook Arts, but he applies for Cathedral Art School and gets in, much to his surprise. He has trouble fitting in at first, especially since all of the students seem to excel academically and it's a lot of work. He also runs afoul Zeke and Kenny, who trash his locker with green paint, but makes a good friend in Matty the Freak, who unfortunately gets him in a fair amount of trouble. Rafe is also curious about what happened to his father, and since the local scary barber turns out to be Rafe's great-uncle, he hopes to get some answers. It all becomes too much, and Rafe steals money and takes a bus back to Hills Village (with his imaginary friend, Leo).Will Rafe be able to stay in Cathedral, or will his bad behavior and poor grades cause him to get kicked out?
Strengths: The cover alone will make students pick this up, and ANY notebook novel is popular with students.
Weaknesses: This is like Fruit Loops. Bright, attractive, supposedly has added vitamins and minerals, but essentially, not the best stuff. Rafe was unlikable, because he knew what he needed to do to succeed, and basically chose not to. I couldn't believe the story line about his mother not telling him about his father. Big Nate is a much better alternative, and I have to give Jeff Kinney credit-- as much as I personally dislike Greg Heffley, Mr. Kinney does his own pictures and popularized a new book format.

And yes, we need to mention .

Marissa Moss' Amelia's Notebook came out in 2002; can anyone think of a Notebook Novel before that? Fruit Loops are okay for breakfast occasionally, but not as a steady diet.

Friedman, Laurie.Oh, Boy, Mallory.
In her diary, Mallory details how she feels when she finds out that Jake, a cute fifth grader (she's in fourth) likes her. Her friends are all really excited, but when Jake calls to talk to her, he more frequently discusses ball games with her brother Max. When she accidentally accepts an invitation to Jake's party when she has already accepted an invitation to her friend April's party, she's not quite sure what she should do. She'd rather go to April's, but her friends pressure her to go to Jake's. She lies to April, which catches up with her later. Mallory realizes that she needs to do what she feels is right, and not necessarily what her friends think will be cool.
Strengths: This was rather painful to read, because it sounds very much like my diary from 1975! (Hi, Shaun!) Pitch perfect take on how younger students feel about boys, and dating, and all manner of things. The Notebook Novel format will make it very popular as well. There is a whole series of these which would be great for elementary school.
Weaknesses: Too young for my students. By 6th grade, the girls are usually interested in any boys that are interested in them, at least for a week or so


Mrs. F-B said...

Totally wimped myself just now and posted on school Facebook sites. Also passed on to my EAs! Thanks for the little diversion.

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