Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Don't Judge Me

Schroeder, Lisa. Don't Judge Me
November 10th 2020 by Scholastic
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

Hazel is having trouble adjusting to middle school. She misses the closeness of her elementary school, wishes that her best friend Tori weren't so concerned about fashion and being popular, and is tired of dealing with the jerky behavior of the boys in her school. When her mother refuses to sign the dress code that Hazel has brought home, things start to escalate. Her mother is involved in a sexual discrimination suit at work, since she was passed over for shift manager in favor of a man with very little experience, so she is encouraging Hazel to speak up for herself. Hazel also is fostering a tortoise that she found abandoned, and is trying to find the best place for the animal, since she's not sure she wants the same pet for the next 80 years! Spoiler: (She eventually contacts her fifth grade teacher, and Pip is made into a class pet.) Tori and Hazel eat lunch in the school library because they are uncomfortable in the cafeteria, and meet Dion, a sensitive boy who is having trouble with some of the jerks at the school. Hazel is horrified when Tori's brother, Ben, who had always been friendly with the girls before they hit middle school, has a notebook where boys opine about the girls in the school, usually in unflattering ways. Having dealt with other children calling her "thunder thighs" because she is athletic, Hazel is already uncomfortable with her appearance, and is encouraged to do something to put an end to this sort of behavior. Instead of approaching Ben's moms, she organizes a group of girls to try to form an organization to improve the culture of the school. The principal, who has previously refused to meet with Hazel's mom, also refuses to meet with the girls. Luckily, the assistant principal is able to force him to meet, and the girls' concerns are finally heard, which results in significant changes in the culture, including training to help with toxic masculinity.
Strengths: Schroeder is HUGELY popular in my library, and this certainly hits all of the buttons for a current look at sociopolitical trends in middle school. It also shows a reluctant student learning to embrace activism in order to improve her school environment. Hazel writes a lot of haiku, is sensitive to animals, and worried about her best friend. I like that some popular, fairly current books are mentioned, and that Pippi Longstocking is a big influence on Hazel.
Weaknesses: This is for the publisher, not the author: If Hazel is the girl in the middle of the picture, I can't imagine anyone calling her "thunder thighs". The array of girls on the cover is somewhat diverse culturally, put certainly does not reflect any middle school girl who weighs more than 90 pounds.
What I really think: The dress code issue didn't seem realistic to me; since all of the negative publicity that schools have gotten on social media pertaining to dress codes, I'm surprised schools still enforce them. Mine does not. We seriously had a girl come to school the other day in a Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat onesie sleeper, and no one said anything. This does seem to be a popular topic for #MGLit, however.
Ms. Yingling

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