Monday, May 11, 2020

MMGM- Keep it Together, Keiko Carter

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.

Florence, Debbi Michiko. Keep it Together, Keiko Carter
May 5th 2020 by Scholastic Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

With 7th grade about to start, Keiko is glad that her friend Jenna is back from visiting her father, who now lives in Texas. She and Audrey were worried that Jenna stopped texting them over the summer. Audrey has a plan for the school year-- the girls will all find boyfriends. Jenna is tired of following Audrey's orders, especially since she has already made friends with the boy who is Audrey's target, and Keiko is a bit weary of her as well. Keiko had been friends with Audrey's brother, Connor, but stopped talking to him when Audrey demanded it. As a result, Connor's friends have been jerks to the girls, hurling racist insults and being generally unpleasant. When Keiko reconnects with Carter, she realizes that he isn't really bad, and that Audrey is actually more unpleasant. Keiko's mother has taken a demanding full time job, and is rarely home, leaving Keiko and her sister Macy feeling lonely and neglected. Macy is acting secretive, and Keiko is worried about her sister. It's tough to try to figure out middle school friendships, boys, and family dynamics, but Keiko realizes that she is the only one who can make the decisions needed to balance her world.
Strengths: THIS is the sort of book that my students always seem to want. Is middle school really about anything BUT friend drama? This was pitch perfect with Audrey being pushy and demanding, Jenna just slowly backing away, and Keiko wanting her friends to reconcile and for everyone to be happy and get along. The romance with Connor is really great; I love that they are friends first and bond over things like his dog, Lumpy. Keiko's (and Jenna's) Japanese heritage is an integral part of the story, even though the book is not about cultural identity. Perfect. When I say this is like Ellen Conford for the New Millenium, remember that Ellen Conford books were my absolute favorite when I was in middle school!
Weaknesses: The beginning of this seemed oddly dated-- the mentions of music, "classic" films (from the 1940s but also the 1980s)  and the stress about the mother going back to work full time seemed very early 2000s. Might have just been me, or maybe the author was recalling her own 7th grade year!
What I really think: I am definitely purchasing a copy. I loved Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen, but it is rather young for my students, so I'm glad to see this solidly middle grade title.

Ms. Yingling


  1. Always enjoy reading your reviews because you know what books your students like to read or you want to challenge theme. And, you really understand the drama of middle school -- I'm years away from it! Doesn't sound like a lot has changed and kids do enjoy seeing themselves in stories. Love that two characters have Japanese heritage. Thank you for the recommendation as a friend was asking me for some titles for her 13-year-old daughter.

  2. Yes, those friendship stories are also a big hit with 6-7th graders in my school district. This one has all the elements with a diverse cast of characters. Thanks for featuring on MMGM. I'll be tracking down a copy.

  3. This sounds great. I will have to track down a copy. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. This sounds like a great story about friendship issues a lot of kids deal with! Thanks for the great review!