NOT IF I CAN HELP IT
By Carolyn Mackler
This is a sweet middle-grade story featuring Willa, a dog-loving girl with Sensory Processing Disorder.
Willa lives with her father and brother in a New York City apartment during the week and visits her mother and step-father on the weekends. She has regular sessions with a therapist and a reliable best friend, Ruby, who keeps her grounded at school. But Willa's world is flipped upside down when she discovers her father has fallen in love with Ruby's mom and intends to marry her.
Readers will quickly connect with likable Willa and empathize with her need for stability and her dislike of change. The detailed aspects of her disorder are well integrated into the story without them overtaking the plot or Willa's character development.
Strong themes of friendship, family, self-acceptance, and honesty abound as Willa grapples with disclosing her diagnosis to Ruby and contemplates how she will function with a new sister and step-mom in her daily life.
Grab some gummy bears (Willa's favorite candy!) and enjoy.
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You Go First
By Erin Entrada Kelly
This book is sure to become a classroom staple. The portrayal of middle school daily life is spot on and the characters are well crafted.
The chapters alternate between 12-year-old Charlotte and her online Scrabble opponent 11-year-old Ben. Both are navigating social isolation at school and family difficulties.
The emotions Charlotte experiences after her Dad has a heart attack and requires emergency surgery and the emotions Ben experiences after his parents announce their divorce are explored realistically and honestly.
In addition to the fully fleshed out main characters and secondary characters, other points of interest throughout the story include the ongoing scrabble words played and the many random facts the main characters reflect on and share from the anatomy of a starfish to statistics about commuting to work.
This is a quiet book full of heart that will appeal to a broad range of middle school readers. Enjoy!
Drum Roll, Please
By Lisa Jenn Bigelow
If you are ready to be transported to summer camp, Drum Roll, Please is just what you need!
Melly attends music camp with her best friend but she experiences much more than an improvement in her drumming. As well as managing her own self doubt and learning how to survive at sleep away camp in the isolated Michigan woods, there are difficult times with her best friend, her parents impending divorce, and a surprising first crush on a girl.
Through Melly’s eyes, Bigelow paints a vivid picture of the woods, camp site, and the emotional roller coaster Melly is riding. The friendships between the characters are delicate and complex and realistically portrayed. Melly’s first crush is explored innocently without unnecessary focus or dramatization.
A beautifully written, well executed story full of heart where each page turn brings more feels. Suitable for middle- grade readers and up.
Embrace your inner rocker and enjoy!