Monday, August 05, 2019

MMGM- The 47 People You'll Meet in Middle School

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Always in the Middle and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Mahoney, KristinThe 47 People You'll Meet in Middle School
August 6th 2019 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Augusta is starting middle school without her best friend, Layla, and feels a bit unprepared. She tells her story in the form of a letter to her younger sister, Louie, whom she feels she ignored during the first few months of school, and starts each chapter with a different person she has met at school, starting with the assistant principal who tells her that she is at the wrong entrance for 6th graders. We also meet Nick, who went to her elementary school and is pleasant to her; Amber, who has a crush on Nick and pumps Gus for information; Sarah, a soccer player who becomes a new friend, Marcy, who was constantly by Gus' side in elementary school but now hangs out with the popular girls; and many other teachers and students at school. We also see glimpses of Gus' home life; her parents are divorced, and she has to coordinate which house she will be at. There are some unfortunate incidents, like the Binaca challenge in her homeroom class, a boy who pinches girls' bottoms, and her ongoing quest to get contact lenses, but the biggest problem is a graffiti incident at the school dance for which Gus and her friends are blamed. Live everything else in middle school, this is eventually cleared up, and Gus realizes that surviving middle school won't be so bad after all.
Strengths: I loved the format of telling the story by different people, and Mahoney has definitely spent some quality time in middle school to identify the people so well. Gus' family situation is realistically drawn, and her treatment of her younger sister is very sweet-- most tweens both love and are irritated by their families, and this is shown brilliantly. The shifting friendships and the discovery of different types of people, as well as learning how to deal with them, are really what middle school is all about. Sometimes I wonder why we bother with academics at all! (There are many days when I feel that homework and tests are really just a way to teach students to turn things in on time! It really doesn't matter what the content is.)
Weaknesses: I was a little leery of the "person per chapter" format, but found it a surprisingly interesting way to tell the story, so was somewhat disappointed when the plot took over and the format went by the wayside a little. Still a good story! Also, I was glad that the "Gooser" was dealt with, but surprised he was able to get away with his behavior for so long. While I'm not often a violent person, I told my daughters that if boys touched them inappropriately, they had my permission to slug first and ask questions later, and I would deal with the resultant suspension!
What I really think: This is perhaps the most realistic and balanced look at middle school I've seen. Most books buy into the adult preconception that middle school will be horrible (parents really get more bent out of shape than students do!), but this settles firmly on the concept that middle school is all over the place, and while you will most likely embarrass yourself horribly at some point, there's usually as much good as bad. Definitely purchasing.

Brandes, Wendy L. Digging Deep (Jake Maddox)
August 1st 2018 by Stone Arch Books
Library copy

Lucy and Asiyah want to try out for a volleyball travel team, but Asiyah is a bit conflicted. She doesn't think she's that good, and doesn't know if she can put forth the effort needed. To cover for this, she's extra goofy with her friend, and sometimes this spills over into practice. Both girls make the team, and when Asiyah hears Lucy talking about her attitude, she tries hard to focus during practice and improve her game. Eventually, she becomes a valuable player on the team and realizes that she doesn't need to be goofy.
Strengths: Insecurity is the cause of so much of the troubling behavior we see in middle school! I love that while Lucy was talking about Asiyah behind her back, nothing that was said was overly negative, just observations, and Asiyah took the comments to heart and tried to improve her own behavior. The girls had their problems, but sorted them out. There's enough volleyball to make this interesting as well, and we need so many more volleyball books! Asiyah's hijab is discussed briefly, but is otherwise just part of who she is.
Weaknesses: While I love the Jake Maddox books, they are very short and very simple. I have a lot of readers who want books about volleyball, but most of my readers don't want these short books. They do very well with my struggling readers, however.
What I really think: I'm glad to have this book; Maddox is popular with my English Language Learners, not many of whom get involved in sports. I am hoping to see this change very soon, but realize that there are some issues that need to be addressed in order for this population to participate. Health forms can be a big stopping point for students, and we've been trying at my school to help get these filled out, as well as helping students car pool home from practice.


  1. Thanks for telling me about these books. I have been hearing a lot about The 47 People You'll Meet in Middle School and intend to get a copy. I don't have much interest in volleyball, but it is good to know about such books.

  2. Your review of 'The 47 People You'll Meet in Middle School' was interesting. I'm curious about the person-per-chapter format. Thanks for sharing your insights with us for MMGM.

  3. I've been doing a good job getting my "to be read" list down to a manageable number, but then I visit your blog and my list explodes. That's okay as these two sound like must haves. Thanks for featuring them today.

  4. I definitely need to get my hands on a copy of the 47 People You'll Meet in Middle School. It sounds like a book I could have used lo, those many decades ago.