Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Nothing Ever Happens Here

Hagger-Holt, Sarah. Nothing Ever Happens Here
January 9th 2020 by Usborne Publishing
Copy provided by @davidowenauthor through Twitter

Izzy lives in a small town in Eastern England with her mother, father, older sister and much younger brother. She has a great friend in Grace, and the two are determined have a great year and try out for the school production of Guys and Dolls run by Izzy's favorite teacher, Mr. Thomas. They get good roles, but Izzy's life takes a strange turn when her father tells the family that he is transgender and will be transitioning so that his appearance matches how he feels. Older sister Megan is devastated, but Izzy just doesn't know quite what to think. Her parents are staying together, but her dad (now called Dee) will be changing. She tells Grace, who reacts badly, having picked up some unfortunate opinions at church. Izzy loves Dee and wants to be supportive, but also doesn't care for kids in her class making fun of her for something she cannot control. The family has some support, but when her father makes the news, Izzy realizes that trying to keep her situation a secret isn't helping. Grace's mother turns out to be more understanding that she had suspected, and she gets support from a boy at school, Sam, as well, and even Mr. Thomas is able to share something with her that makes her feel better about her situation. Dee goes on a local talk show to discuss his experiences, and even though he must confront Grace's minister, the program goes well. Even Megan comes around, and Izzy's life continues, her family situation just a small part of who she is and how she lives her life.
Strengths: Representation matters. There are children dealing with all sorts of family dynamics, and if we don't have books that show those experiences, some children will feel left out. Izzy's father's experience is not new or that unusual-- when my mother was teaching in a small town in North Eastern Ohio in the 1970s, she had a boy whose father transitioned. It seemed odd at the time, since no one I knew even used the term transgender, but the focus was still on helping the student adjust to change and continue on. Hagger-Holt does a good job at showing the challenges as well as the positives of the family dynamics, and paints a sympathetic portrait of a family going through changes. The fact that Izzy is also involved in a time consuming school activity like a play and is also having some friend drama makes this perfect.
Weaknesses: It would have been good to see Izzy involved in therapy of some sort. This book is not available through Follett in a hard cover, but is available in the US through Book Depository.
What I really think: For a British family, Izzy's is actually quite functional! Think of all of the Jacqueline Wilson books where the mothers are ineffectual and the fathers or boyfriends abusive, and Izzy's parents look fantastic. We need to see more books like this in the US. There are a few Britishisms that take some figuring out.

Kinney, Jeff. Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid
April 9th 2019 by Harry N. Abrams
Public library copy

Rowley has been so intrigued by Greg's journals that he decides to write one of his own, illustrated in a similar (but not quiet as well done) way. At first, he claims that he is going to write about himself, but then decides he will make it a biography about Greg so he doesn't get angry. He then recounts his interactions with Greg, every single one of which makes me hate Greg even more. He's mean to Rowley, lies to him, gets him in trouble with his parents, and is generally a complete and utter jerk. At one point, Greg creates a "special award" for Rowley to manipulate him into doing things he doesn't want to do! At the end, after the two get in a lot of trouble and Rowley's parents even stage an intervention and tell him it's time to find some new friends, Rowley states "me and Greg get on each other's nerves a LOT so I guess that just proves that we're BEST FRIENDS."

Um, no.

I've never been a huge fan of the Wimpy Kid books, mainly because they lack plot and character development. But students love them, and there's something to be said for a book that adults don't like but kids do. But this... goes over a line a bit. It makes me really worry that Rowley has some kind of learning challenge that is unidentified, and that Greg is purposefully using Rowley'd good nature to abuse him.

Anyone else worried? Am I just over thinking this? I don't usually complain about books-- good for Jeff Kinney for creating such an empire-- but this came off as very mean spirited.

My students haven't asked for this one, although they are avidly awaiting Wrecking Ball (which sounds like it might have an interesting plot), so I might not purchase this one.
Ms. Yingling


  1. For what it's worth, I got my daughter (who loved the Wimpy Kid books) Rowley's book when it came out last year. She read it, but I haven't seen her re-read it or talk about it. We read some of the regular Wimpy Kid books together and did enjoy that (though we've moved on the the My Life series, which are MUCH better as a read-together).

  2. I had a kid ask for it and I bought it, but they lost interest pretty quickly. I always tell kids that if Greg actually came into my library I'd kick him out. He's a jerk.