Monday, August 24, 2015

MMGM- Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Planet Girl

Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards

First of all, you should head right over to the Cybils Website and check out whether you have what it takes to be a Cybils judge! Do you read a lot of books? Blog about them? Recommend them to children? The Cybils would be a great experience for you. We can't guarantee that you'll be accepted (trying to balance teachers, librarians, writers, etc. can be tricky, no matter how much we might love to have an applicant work with us!), but if you don't apply, you definitely won't be!

22718671Greenwald, Tommy. Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Planet Girl
August 25th 2015 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Charlie Joe is not having the best time of his life in middle school, mainly because he doesn't have a girlfriend and all of his other friends (except for Katie and Nareem) do. Desperate for advice, he heads to the library to consult Mrs. Reedy, who gives him A Communication Guide to Boys and Girls, which has a boy and a girl on the back cover who "were dressed like they were from a different planet". Oddly enough, Charlie reads the whole book, and even more oddly, it's actually interesting. He helps one of his friends with his girlfriend problem by quoting the book, and before he knows it, fellow students are lined up to get his advice. The problem is that Charlie can't follow his own advice. He is caught in an ill-advised kiss with Hannah by Katie Friedman, and after that, he comes to the realization that it's really Katie whom he likes. He tries to reconnect with her, but she won't answer her texts. During a Camp Rituhbukkee reunion in New York City, Charlie gets himself involved in a typical caper, and never can quite manage to talk to Katie in the way the book recommends. Finally, under the advisement of the drama adviser, he realizes that his charisma is a valuable asset and that he's been hiding it. An ill-conceived plot involving Katie's rock band and chickens ends with an opportunity for Charlie to finally approach Katie and say those beautiful words "Yeah, we're going out."
Strengths: As much as teachers and parents want to claim that middle school students "don't date", they do declare boyfriends and girlfriends, sometimes at the rate of one a week. I remember chronicling this in middle school (sorry, Jon!), and while I don't see much of it where I teach, I think it is still a biological imperative for tweens to want to feel that they are attractive enough that someone wants to "date" them. Oddly, few books for middle graders are willing to address this. Leave it to Mr. Greenwald, for whose work I have an unabashed love, to go there with Charlie.
Weaknesses: Charlie will often engage in at least one scene that seems unrealistic to me-- this time, it was declaring his relationship with Katie in front of the school. I don't see that students would be given an opportunity to do that, and doubt that there are souls brave enough even if the chance presented itself. Since the rest of the book rings true, we'll forgive that scene.
What I really think: I want to work with Mrs. Reedy. We'd be totally awesome together, and it sounds like she might need some help weeding her collection!

5240171I actually had the book on the left from 1996. Not that long ago to ME, but what's with the hair? I have always giggled at the Rosen Everything You Need to Know Library, and this volume on Falling in Love from 2001 would be just what Charlie would need. My favorite was Everything You Need to Know about Pregnancy and Childbirth. In 112 pages!

21469073Tashjian, Janet. My Life as a Gamer (My Life #5)
April 7th 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

If you have fans of Charlie Joe, this series is another great one. PLUS, there need to be a lot more books about video gaming, if I look at the sort of hobbies my students have!

"Derek Fallon gets the chance of a lifetime--to participate in a gaming company focus group and to test out a new video game called "Arctic Ninja." Together with his friends Carly, Matt, and Umberto, Derek thinks his gaming talents will be showcased. But he soon realizes that everyone has got him beat, including whiz kid El Cid. On top of that, school reading tests have begun and Derek feels doubly off his game. Isn't there anything he's good at?"


  1. You share two new books by authors I love! Charlie's take on love would have to be hilarious! And yes, middle schoolers are definitely into boyfriends/girlfrieds. If they didn't have one, they were up on who did or did not--at least at the school where I taught. I agree, there need to be more books about gaming. I had so many students ask for them, and I had few titles to recommend.

  2. Having taught middle school for a long time, indeed they do date, & the changes happen week to week. Sometimes I would have a few students tell me what was going on, fascinating. Now that they can 'declare' on social media, I wonder how they make the changes? Your Charlie Joe Jackson's Planet Girl sounds fun, & would please many, I think. Thanks for the others, too.

  3. Guide to Planet Girl sounds like a lot of fun - and one that would most likely be useful to a lot of teenage boys. :)

  4. I think it is hilarious that you want to work with the character Mrs. Reedy and help her weed! There must have been some great descriptive scenes about the library!

  5. So glad to see another Charlie Joe Jackson book. Tommy Greenwald is one of my favorites. I also agree with the 'dating' culture of 6-7th graders. I had one former student tell me that after the dreaded Growing and Changing film, they all pair up, though most don't last to lunch time.

  6. I remember (vaguely) having that preteen anxiety, and more recently, but still a long time ago, I remember watching my boys go through it. Now I see students dealing with this on a regular basis. I've even caught a few of them hanging out in the school long after the school day is over. I really want to get Guide to Planet Girl for our library. Thanks so much for the heads up about it and the new Tashjian novel.

  7. You make an excellent point about middle schoolers and dating. I completely and utterly agree. It seems like a quiet form of censorship, perhaps.

  8. These sound like a couple of fun books. Looking at love from the MG perspective will be interesting. Thanks for the reviews.

  9. Anonymous9:46 PM EDT

    Charlie Joe and My Life As sound like books that my seventh graders would absolutely love. Thanks for the recommendations!

  10. Anonymous8:21 PM EDT

    Oh no!! Spoilers!! Well, aside from that, great job on this!