Friday, March 11, 2022

Guy Friday- Honestly Elliott

McDunn, Gillian. Honestly Elliott
March 1st 2022 by Bloomsbury Children's Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Elliott divides his time between his mom's, where he feels at home, and his dad's house, where everything is new and shiny. His dad always seems disappointed in anything that Elliott does, whether almost failing a quarter because he didn't do any of the work, being interested in cooking, and having a major $600-in-damages "Incident" that is never discussed but that will take the money he is saving for a cooking summer camp. (Won't spoil it, but it wasn't anything awful and/or criminal.)The homework wasn't done in part because Elliott is struggling with ADHD. He's learning to keep checklists and better tabs on things, so when he is assigned a project, "Avery Local", to start a business, he hopes to do better. His friends, however, don't want to work with him because he is less than reliable, so he ends up working with Maribel, whose friends make fun of her need for gluten-free products because of her celiac disease. Elliott is a big fan of a cooking show, and he and Maribel decide on a cooking project. However, the next day she comes with the completed paperwork (which Elliott had planned to do during Advisory), which outlines a baking project. His idol dismisses baking as "not real cooking", so he's not happy. His idol also doesn't use recipes, so when the two try their first pies, they do not go well and waste a whole batch of expensive strawberries. While looking for a cheaper to produce alternative, they happen upon vintage community cookbooks and find a recipe for a vinegar based "Desperation Pie" that turns out well with a gluten-free crust. While school is going a bit better, Elliott is very worried, for many reasons, about his step-mother's pregnancy, and about having a baby brother. Will he be able to find a balance in his interests, and find a way to feel more at home with his father?
Strengths: This has a lot of interesting facets. Pets, divorced parents, a school project, and community involvement. Elliott is a well-meaning but complicated character who would be right at home at Big Nate's lunch table. I loved the details of how he felt at both of his homes, and about how he struggled with school work and organizing his life. There's a great scene where he is out of socks because he failed to do laundry! There was just enough about the stepmother's pregnancy and Elliott's worries about the new baby to make this engaging without taking over the other aspects of the story. The cooking will appeal to readers; middle schoolers are always interested in food. This was well-paced, a good length, and a fun respite from darker problems. Smaller problems are less traumatic to read about, and affect more students more deeply than authors seem to realize. 
Weaknesses: I would have liked to see Elliott's ADHD coping skills outlined a bit more, like Gerber's Focused. He is shown being in therapy, which is fine, but more details would have been nice. Also would have been helpful if he were on medication, and that was described, since there are many, many students in that situation, many of whom don't want to take that medication. 
What I really think: I liked this and need more humorous books, so will purchase, but we need to expand the kinds of activities that kids do in #MGLit! We've already had a number with school elections, newspapers, and dances, and cooking as well. More babysitting, perhaps? Or are tweens no longer doing that?
 Ms. Yingling

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