Wednesday, September 06, 2017

#WNDB Wednesday- Middle School Novels

Shang, Melissa and Eva. Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School
August 2nd 2016 by Woodgate Publishing

Copy provided by the author

Mia is apprehensive about starting middle school. She has a great best friend, Caroline, who doesn't quite grasp the seriousness of moving from elementary school, evidenced by her insistence on playing cowgirl the way they used to. On top of that, Caroline manages to run right into Angela, who turns out to be the school's main mean girl. Mia hopes that she can avoid Angela, but they both have an interest in the school's Video Production Club. Mia's hobby is making stop motion videos, and they have quite an online following, plus it's a club that doesn't involve an activity that might be hard for Mia, since she is in a wheelchair. Angela and Mia both want to run for president of the VP Club, which involves making a video for the club adviser, Mr. Postin, who won't tell the girls anything about the parameters. After a rocky start, Angela is nice to Mia, even working with her on a math scavenger hunt. Mia isn't pleased when Angela's mother helps her cheat on the work, and Angela isn't pleased when Mia tells Mr. Postin what happened. Mia and Caroline have some rocky moments while settling into their new school routine, and Mia's big sister isn't very much help, since she is away at college. When Mia's campaign posters, and later Angela's video DVD go missing, Mia needs to figure out who is trying to sabotage the election. With the help of some new friends, she manages to solve the mystery and slowly figure out her place in the club and in middle school.
Strengths: This was a fun, upbeat novel about the drama that goes on in middle school and how one girl gets through it with the help of her friends and family. There are good details about some of the challenges that Mia (as well as the author) has to face since she is in a wheelchair because of a form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, but they never overshadow the stories of the election and friend drama.
Weaknesses: There could have been a few more details about the mechanics of Mia's mobility issues. For instance, she uses a wheelchair, but also has leg braces. Most middle school students are too polite to ask other students for details about how they live their lives unless they are VERY good friends, so readers like to have more details in books. Mia has an aide, Miss Jackson, and middle grade readers would be interested in knowing more about why Mia has an aid, and what she does.
What I really think: This is a good first effort that shows strong writing, and upbeat sensibilities that many adult writers would do well to emulate. There could be improvements in the growth of the characters as well as the pacing and development of the drama, but that's something with which many writers struggle.

Jamieson, Victoria. All's Faire in Middle School
September 5th 2017 by Dial Books
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Imogene (Impy) lives with her family in a run down apartment, and has been homeschooled for years, because her mother and father both work at the local Renaissance Fair. With middle school approaching, Impy has decided that she wants to go to public school, although she is apprehensive about how the other children will treat her and how she will fit in. She is lucky on the first day when Mika invites her to sit with her at lunch with her friends Sasha and Emily. Impy agonizes over fitting in, ans struggles with some of the school work. Going to the Renaissance Fair is a huge relief, since she feels comfortable there and is getting paid to be a squire and interact with visitors. She meets a girl from school, Anita, who comes every weekend with her father. Anita is a lot of fun, but warns Impy that they can't be friends at school because Mika and her crowd are mean to Anita. Soon, Impy learns the depths of Mika's snarky meanness, and when she stands up to her, things fall apart. Will Impy be able to find her own place in middle school where her unique background can shine?
Strengths: Families who work at Renaissance Fairs-- there's a bit of diversity that has certainly been lacking in middle grade literature. Home schooled children occasionally have difficulties getting into the swing of public school, and Impy's feeling of "otherness" will appeal to a wide range of readers who feel that what they are wearing and how their family lives isn't quite as mainstream as it could be (And that would be all of them. I remember feeling weird because both of my parents were in education, which is pretty common!). Rich world building, realistic problems with friends and school, and some nice moments, like when Impy's mother takes her to the thrift store to try to replicate the outfits of the "cool kids". (Been there, done that!) Also liked that Impy stood up for herself with Mika and worked through the difficulties she created with Anitam, all while remaining true to herself.
Weaknesses: It just occurred to me that the three writers who turn out a perfect middle grade graphic novel-- Holm, Telgemeier and Jamieson-- all have girls as their main characters! This is fine, but it would be nice to see a little more gender diversity! Still waiting for Jump Start! comic artist Robb Armstrong to come out with a graphic novel.
What I really think: Might as well buy two copies of this right now, because it will never be on the shelf. I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels, but I do love that Jamieson does tell a story with a lot of depth and character development and has just the perfect format for middle grade readers when it comes to style of illustrations, size and amount of text, and complexity of story line. Definitely looking forward to her next effort!

1 comment:

  1. I'm going to get All's Faire in Middle School for my daughter. She's a little young for it, but the only thing that she's excited about reading now is realistic graphic novels that are thick. So we will need this one. Thanks for reminding me about it.