“Middle School is worse than meatloaf”
Pictures by: Elicia Castaldi
Published by: Simon and Schuster KIDS.Simonand Schuster.com
A NAPPA Gold Award Winner
Ages: 8 – 12 years
Theme: Humour, Life experiences, the ups and downs of school life, creativity.
Opening Lines: Ginny;s Back-to School Shopping List .. 1. New school shoes and new toe shoes for ballet. 2. New backpack. 3. New binder (a cool one this year. PLEASE!! Brown is not a cool color!!!) 4. The yellow sweater at the mall. The one in the window of Gerards.
Synopsis: Ginny has ten items on her big to-do list for seventh grade. None of them, however, include accidentally turning her hair pink. Or getting sent to detention for throwing frogs in class. Or losing the lead role in the ballet recital to her ex-best friend. Or the thousand other things that can go wrong between September and June. But it looks like it’s shaping up to be that kind of a year!
Here’s the story of one girl’s worst school year ever — told completely through her stuff. Yes! Through “post it notes”, stickers, chocolate wrappers, comic strips, postcards, and receipts and even “instant messages”.
Why I Like it: Hilariously blunt, quirky, insightful. We are lead into a private “kept-under-the-bed” box of a young seventh grader’s thoughts, and ups and downs of life, as she sees it. Some have referred it as a near graphic novel while it is probably meant as a middle grade read, I on the other hand looked at it as each piece of item albeit a post-it-note, school report card , though covered in either scribbled handwritten text by Ginny or her Mother, school friends, or from others, such as her teacher, as pictures. Stuck with glue-tack, or paper pins, paper clips or magnets on each page of this more than 30 page book. Hence I have brought it to Perfect Picture Book-Friday. From her notes of plea’s to her mother for that yellow sweater, where her mother’s reply notes “too expensive, wait for Christmas” to a note to her teacher saying her dog ate her homework, resulting in the reply from teacher, Miss Angelini, being, “ I’m sorry to say that”the dog ate my homework.” While a very amusing excuse and not one I have heard very many times, does not substitute for the fact that you have not completed your quarter science project. Sadly, I have no recourse but to give you an F.” We follow Ginny through getting “acquainted” with her stepdad; will he ever learn to put the toilet seat down, her “brain project” for school; her stepdad’s note to the teacher, with his best intentions, and many other quirky, hilariously real situations she finds herself in during the year. On one page a calendar with 3rd of May circled and a post-it-note with an arrow reads “Mom, No way!! The dance is next week!! Your Daughter Ginny who refuses to wear braces to her First Dance Ever” is followed by a continuation of a handwritten project on flower pollination edged with clever diagrams by Ginny herself and a note in the corner from a young suitor asking what her favourite flower and colour is so he can buy her a corsage. Another is a Detention Referral for throwing a dissection tray with a live frog on it.
One can almost, feel, experienced, been-there-done-that, worn the t-shirt, and ……… oh! Written the Book!!! This is truly fodder for inspiration for writers.
I’ll leave you with something Ginny wrote:
An Ode to the Dumbest Age of All
Oh, the dumbest age of all is twelve
Too young to drive, but too old to have your parents take you to the movies.
Too young to work at the mall, but too old to get an allowance anymore.
Too Young to stay up to watch television, but old enough to babysit your bratty little brother.
Oh, the dumbest age of all is twelve.
I’m just hoping that thirteen isn’t so dumb.
(Now quickly before you get your hand smacked, close the lid and put the box back under the bed from where it came before you get caught – by Ginny!)
Resources/Findings: While there is no direct resources for this particular book I did find on Jennifer’s website …. http://www.jenniferholm.com/ a reference to Judy Freeman a Literary Consultant, writer and speaker, her website…. http://www.judyreadsbooks.com/ on read aloud, story telling, and book talking conference in New Jersey April 25,26,27th. She has programs for Teachers and Programs for Parents, with hands on assistance. A very dynamic and busy lady.
It’s interesting the vast ideas one can come up with to use with this type of book.
– Children writing lists – their uses, etc.
– How to write up a school project, ie science, biology etc..
– Discussions on communication
– Discussions on Peer pressure
– Discussions on behaviour in class …. To name a few.
For more books with resources please visit the lovely author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books. Her blog is full of resources links and activities associated with the books reviewed by many authors.