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Middle School Scheming: Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

Aloha!  Welcome back!

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy GrenwaldToday’s review is for the second 2012-2013 Florida Sunshine State book I’ve read this summer.  There are fifteen total so I still have quite a way to go, but I’m not worried.  It is summer after all!

Charlie Joe Jackson may be the most reluctant reader ever born. And so far, he’s managed to get through life without ever reading an entire book from cover to cover. But now that he’s in middle school, avoiding reading isn’t as easy as it used to be. And when his friend Timmy McGibney decides that he’s tired of covering for him, Charlie Joe finds himself resorting to desperate measures to keep his perfect record intact.

First let me say that Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading is really fun.  Yes, I know I’m a librarian so I shouldn’t be excited about a book that gives kids tips for not reading, but this is such a cute book!

I know for a fact that my students are going to love this one.  It is written in the same style as Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and my students love those so much that this one will be an easy sell!  Even my reluctant readers will approve because of the fun illustrations and super short, but not choppy, chapters.

In between each chapter Charlie Joe Jackson gives the reader one of his 25 Tips for Not Reading, which are hilarious and break the story up in a good way.  Even one who loves reading as much as I do got a kick out of Charlie Joe’s reasons why sports are better than reading!

Charlie is your average middle school boy.  He is funny, smart (but not super smart), mischievous and just a nice guy.  He just doesn’t like reading.  Charlie’s scheming does get himself and his friends into trouble, but that’s a normal part of middle school.  He actually reminds me of a student I had years ago who is now in high school probably still planning ways to get out of reading!

What I really liked about Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading is that there isn’t some cheesy moral at the end.  Charlie doesn’t wake up one day realizing the fault of his non reading ways and suddenly learn to love books.  He just doesn’t, but that is okay because he does learn some other equally important lessons along the way.  I would have been disappointed if it ended up being a bait and switch and I know my students wouldn’t have appreciated that either.

Overall, Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading was a fun, cute and humorous.  There were even times when this book had me chuckling and reading paragraphs out loud to my husband, so if you’re looking for a light and fun middle grade read I highly recommend this one!

Author: Tommy Greenwald

Publisher: Roaring Book Press (July 5, 2011)

Format: Paperback

Length: 240 pages

Series: First in a series

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading

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Already On My To Buy List: The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani

Hello!  I read this book as part of the 2012 Debut Authors Challenge.

The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera HiranandaniAfter her father loses his job, Sonia Nadhamuni, half Indian and half Jewish American, finds herself yanked out of private school and thrown into the unfamiliar world of public education. For the first time, Sonia’s mixed heritage makes her classmates ask questions—questions Sonia doesn’t always know how to answer—as she navigates between a group of popular girls who want her to try out for the cheerleading squad and other students who aren’t part of the “in” crowd.

At the same time that Sonia is trying to make new friends, she’s dealing with what it means to have an out-of-work parent—it’s hard for her family to adjust to their changed circumstances. And then, one day, Sonia’s father goes missing. Now Sonia wonders if she ever really knew him. As she begins to look for answers, she must decide what really matters and who her true friends are—and whether her two halves, no matter how different, can make her a whole.

I have to say that I was captivated with this story from the start; I started it and didn’t want to put it down (although work, and real life actually did force me to!).

The Whole Story of Half a Girl is a coming of age story centered around a girl in middle school at a point in her life when everything (and I mean everything!) gets turned upside down. Sonia’s father looses his job, she has to go to a different school, her mother has to work more, her father is struggling with depression, she is trying to make new friends, and all while kids at school are making fun of her.

Hiranandani writes a story so real that it hurts at times.  The more I read, the more my mind was flooded with my own memories from this age.  Kids are not just dealing with one problem, but  are often blindsided by a multitude all at once, making the transition from child to teenager that much more challenging.  I appreciate the way this book illustrates the complexity of family issues, relationship struggles and the difficulty that comes with discovering one’s own (ethnic/religious) identity. There was potential for Sonia’s story to be easily clichéd or stereotyped, but Hiranandani manages to keep the story balanced and realistic while at the same time incredibly touching. And I think that Hiranandani does a wonderful job of writing about such deep issues, while also maintaining the middle grade appropriateness.

As a main character Sonia is both likable and easy to connect with.  In the midst of all the changes, Sonia is really trying to make sense of everything the best she can.  I especially like how realistically flawed Hiranandani writes Sonia, as exemplified in how she handles her new friendships at her new school.  Through much of the book, Sonia puts real friendship on the back-burner, instead turning her attention to the more superficial and in turn hurts some people.  Although its a mistake I understand why Sonia would do this; her life is so much upheaval she just focuses on whats easy for a while; going with the flow.  Eventually, however she realizes that going with the flow isn’t always the healthiest of practices, especially when it comes to who you spend your time with. Who, when faced with such difficult times, wouldn’t make the easy choice for a little while?

Overall, I was impressed with how moving Sonia’s story was and highly recommend it to any reader preteen and up.   The Whole Story of Half a Girl is already on my Too Buy list for my Media Center!

Author: Veera Hiranandani

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Format: Advanced Reader Copy (e-book)

Pages: 224

Series: Stand alone debut

YA/MG: Middle Grades

Buy the Book: The Whole Story of Half a Girl