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Middle School Summer Titles: Masterful Storytelling

June 1st, 2015 | Posted by etownsend in Middle School | 2014-2015 | Summer

Bird Lake Moon by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow, 2008.

When 12-year-old Mitch’s parents divorce, he and his mother go to spend the summer with his grandparents in their cottage on Bird Lake. Mitch feels angry, sad, and lonely, and he retreats into his imagination where he pretends the long-vacant cottage next door belongs to him. He sweeps the front porch, cleans out the bird bath, and carves his initials into the porch’s wooden railing. He even resolves to keep the splinter he gets from the railing so the house will be a part of him. Mitch’s future plans are disturbed, however, when another family shows up to spend a week at the cottage. From his position in the crawl space underneath the front porch, he learns that they own the house and he decides he will try to scare them away by making them think the house is haunted. What Mitch doesn’t know is that 10-year-old Spencer and his family haven’t been to the lake for years because it was the site of his older brother’s drowning when he was four and Spencer was just two. And every small thing Mitch does to make them think the house is haunted, Spencer reads as a sign from his dead brother. Masterfully told with alternating points of view, Henkes shows the developing friendship between two boys who are both withholding information from each other. Only the reader knows the full story, and the dramatic tension builds as each boy gets closer to finding out the truth. (KTH) ©2008 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

 

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia. Amistad / HarperCollins, 2013.

Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are back in Brooklyn after spending the summer of 1968 with their mother Cecile in Oakland (One Crazy Summer, Amistad / HarperCollins, 2010), and dramatic changes are in store. First, Pa has a girlfriend, Miss Marva Hendrix. Then Delphine starts sixth grade expecting to have Miss Honeywell, the most mod of teachers. Instead, she gets Mr. Mwila, on an exchange program from Zambia. And a new group—five singing and dancing brothers named Jackson—have the sisters and the nation mesmerized. When Miss Marva Hendrix offers to take them to see the Jackson 5 at Madison Square Garden, Pa insists they earn half the money for tickets, and Delphine assumes she’ll be in charge, like always. Miss Marva Hendrix appoints Vonetta to manage their earnings. Delphine predicts disaster. Vonetta doesn’t fail. Uncle Darrell comes home from Vietnam, but elation turns to worry when he struggles with drugs. It’s so disturbing that Big Ma, always dependable if demanding, begins to falter. “Be eleven,” Cecile writes Delphine at the end of each letter. But she is eleven. What does her mother mean? What matters is that Delphine knows Cecile’s message is rooted in love, just like Big Ma’s home training. And now there is Miss Marva Hendrix, who thinks a woman could run for president someday, further expanding Delphine’s understanding of being young and Black and female. The modeling and mothering provided by all three of these women buoy Delphine and her sisters in ways they don’t always understand but surely feel. Rita Williams-Garcia once again captures time and place with sparkling clarity in an inspired look at childhood and growth and change. (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

 

The Unidentified by Rae Mariz. Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2010.

Katey attends school in the Game, a converted mall designed by corporations, which have become the major funders of education. The companies constantly monitor students on camera and online in hopes of finding teens they can “brand” to help promote and sell their products. Everything in the Game is about being connected, being cool, and staying on top of the latest trend. Unlike most of her peers, Katey isn’t eager to be branded and does the bare minimum to remain a player; as a result, she’s intrigued by a group called the Unidentified who seem to be inviting the students to break out of the controlled and controlling system based on popularity and consumerism. But her very interest in the Unidentified—she’s the first to pay attention to what they are doing, and curious about who they are—attracts sponsor attention. Katey and her mom are struggling financially, and she accepts the sponsorship only because it comes with economic benefits. Suddenly the Unidentified are being exploited by sponsors as the nexthttp://readon.education.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Icon_MiddleSchool1.png big fad, http://readon.education.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Summer.pngeven as Katey discovers they may not be as radical as they originally appeared. This timely novel combines a mystery (who is behind the Unidentified?) with exploration of provocative issues of privacy and consumerism in a story set in a believably not-too-distant future.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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