Nichols, Travis. Matthew Meets the Man
28 February 2012, Roaring Brook Press
Matthew plays trumpet in the marching band because that is his father's dream, but what Matthew really wants is to play drums with a rock band. He starts practicing, but has trouble saving money to buy a drum kit, which seems to be fairly essential if he is ever going to put together a group. He has other things that get in his way-- his family's general reluctance to help him with anything, his friends, who have other ways for him to spend his money, his job at his uncle's Mexican restaurant, and his budding relationship with Hope, which complicates everything. When he finally puts together a group, Manhassler, he realizes that the Battle of the Bands competition which he hopes will be his springboard to fame and fortune is scheduled on the same night as his band concert. It's not easy to survive high school, but Matthew is doing his best.
Strengths: This was a good, short, funny book for middle school boys. Glad that some romance was involved. This will be great for boys who liked Rachel Spinelli Punch Me in the Face, Friedman's The Girlfirend Project, and other funny books with romance thrown in. Of course, Jordan Sonnenblick is the go-to author for this-- can't tell you the number of times I've been describing a Sonnenblick title to students and two or three others around us say "Oh! That's an AWESOME book." At my school, the only complaint we have about Sonnenblick is that he needs to write more books!
Weaknesses: The format could have used work. This is a tiny book with a cartoonish cover, so that says elementary school. It's not. It's about a high school student, but I don't see this being included in any high school collections due to the size and cover. It will be a little bit of a hard sell to the 8th grade boy, but it's exactly what many of them want to read.
Philosophical Musing of the Day: I know that I've discussed how people who want to write books and love to read are often fantasy fans, but my question today is-- are agents and publishers really looking for more fantasy? There were 127 middle grade fiction nominees for the Cybils award, but 151 middle grade science fiction/fantasy. This seems somehow wrong, since I don't have over half of my students wanting fantasy. Perhaps 20% of my readers want fantasy.
So. Middle Grade writers. If you ever played a sport, write about that. Guy writers, write about being 12 and pining after that girl who sat ahead of you in math class. Heck, all middle grade writers, just go out and read Gary Paulsen's Liar, Liar series and think some deep thoughts. That's the most popular series in my library with both boys and girls right now!