Sunday, July 11, 2010
It's another long, hot summer weekend. What are you reading on the beach this week, or out by the swimming pool?
I'm still going through my daughter's books, catching up on what's new in Middle Grade literature. Booklist gave SCHOOLED a starred review back in 2008 when it was first released. Which is a Good Thing, for those of you who don't follow Booklist reviews.
The story is set in Middle School in California, and focuses on the 8th grade (poignant for me, as my oldest just graduated from 8th grade. Good for my daughter as she's starting Middle School in September.)
The basic premise follows a student who's been home schooled on a commune all his life. The commune has dwindled in size so that it's just the boy and his grandmother left living there (his parents were killed long ago in a tragic Peace Corp accident.) When the grandmother breaks a hip (falling out a tree in the first chapter) the boy must go into foster care and attend public school while she heals.
What a great premise.
Ripe with possibilities and endless opportunities for conflict. Adding to the uniqueness of the storyline, each chapter is narrated by a different character. There are at least six narrators, some with more chapters than others, but all telling their portion of the story from their own point of view very convincingly.
Does it portray real life in 8th grade in California? Probably not. There's no sex or drugs, no poverty or racial discrimination, no really bad language... nothing truly objectionable going on or talked about by characters.
Am I comfortable with my going-into-middle-school daughter reading it? Oh yes, more comfortable than I am with her being on the bus with actual 8th graders in the morning on the way to school. The story focuses more on the politics of middle school conformity, and why fitting in and being the same isn't the only way to succeed in middle school. What Andrew Clements did for elementary school with books like FRINDLE and JANITORS BOY, I think this book tries to do for middle school. And does well.
Just don't expect a real life 8th grader to read it without laughing and saying, "Oh yeah, right."