Graphic Novel Review: Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
Series: Berrybrook Middle School #1
Author/Illustrator: Svetlana Chmakova
Published: July 21, 2015
Reviewed By: Cristina
Cardinal rule #1 for surviving school: Don’t get noticed by the mean kids.
Cardinal rule #2 for surviving school: Seek out groups with similar interests and join them.
On her first day at her new school, Penelope–Peppi–Torres reminds herself of these basics. But when she trips into a quiet boy in the hall, Jaime Thompson, she’s already broken the first rule, and the mean kids start calling her the “nerder girlfriend.” How does she handle this crisis? By shoving poor Jaime and running away!
Falling back on rule two and surrounding herself with new friends in the art club, Peppi still can’t help feeling ashamed about the way she treated Jaime. Things are already awkward enough between the two, but to make matters worse, he’s a member of her own club’s archrivals–the science club! And when the two clubs go to war, Peppi realizes that sometimes you have to break the rules to survive middle school!
Today I’m sharing a graphic novel that I really enjoyed: Awkward, by Svetlana Chmakova. It’s the first of a series, too, so there’s more to read if you love it.
Being the new kid in middle school is tough. But embarrassing yourself on the first day? Even worse. It’s a good thing Penelope (Peppi for short) found the art club. Now if she could just apologize to the boy she was mean to on the first day…but he’s in the science club, art club’s worst rival! A story of owning mistakes, making friends, and resolving rivalries in the best ways possible, Awkward is a great summer read.
I am a believer in Graphic Novels. These are not just “comic books.” There are well thought out story lines, problems to solve, character development and lessons shared in a well done graphic novel. If you have a reader who shudders at the thought of a chapter book, a graphic novel is a great way to introduce them to deeper stories while still having visual interest through the art work. Enjoy!
Book Review: Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone
Author: Carrie Firestone
Published: July 7, 2020
Reviewed By: Cristina
In this debut middle-grade girl-power friendship story, perfect for fans of Moxie , an eighth grader starts a podcast to protest the unfair dress code enforcement at her middle school and sparks a rebellion.
Molly Frost is FED UP…
Because Olivia was yelled at for wearing a tank top.
Because Liza got dress coded and Molly didn’t, even though they were wearing the exact same outfit.
Because when Jessica was pulled over by the principal and missed a math quiz, her teacher gave her an F.
Because it’s impossible to find shorts that are longer than her fingertips.
Because girls’ bodies are not a distraction.
Because middle school is hard enough.
And so Molly starts a podcast where girls can tell their stories, and before long, her small rebellion swells into a revolution. Because now the girls are standing up for what’s right, and they’re not backing down.
Molly is an 8th grader at Fisher Middle School. FMS has a dress code. One that gets enforced. Ruthlessly. So when her friend gets “pulled over” for violating the code and humiliated by the principal Dr. Couchman, Molly decides to start fighting back. She starts a podcast to make others aware of the way the girls of FMS are being targeted, shamed and bullied–by the administration adults– simply because:
A bra strap was showing.
A shirt that showed a little sliver of stomach.
Shorts that didn’t hit the “finger tip” rule.
Hair that was “too big.”
What will it take to get the school board to revisit and fix the dress code issue at FMS? Molly isn’t sure, but she’s willing to do what it takes to get the issues addressed.
*While this book has an AR of 4.8( See below review for explanation of AR), it is full of difficult topics. Body shaming from authority figures. Family issues. Vaping. Friends figuring out that they are gay. All issues that many middle school students deal with in real life. I strongly encourage reading it with your reader for some great discussion opportunities.
This book caught my eye because in 7th grade in my middle school in Louisiana, I was “pulled over.” My shorts were apparently too short. Two other girls and I were told to kneel on the floor. If our shorts didn’t touch the floor, we would be against dress code. My shorts hit just above my knee; I got in trouble and was told to call for a change of clothes. I felt humiliated and embarrassed. The other girls were given a warning, even thought their shorts were even shorter than mine! How was this even fair?! My incident of being “coded” was in 1990. Reading this book made me sad to realize this was still such an issue, and hopeful to see that it getting addressed more and more. The way Molly and her friends fight for their voices to be heard is positive and inspiring. I hope many girls (and guys!) read this book and think about how they can make their voices heard as well.
***Accelerated Reader (AR) is used by many schools to track students’ reading comprehension. Each number range represents the reading level for each grade. For example, 3.0 represents a 3rd grade reading level. However, each child will have a reading level range determined by testing what is appropriate for them.
Book Review: Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Published: August 11, 2020
Reviewed By: Cristina
Cristina’s Rating: 5 stars
Ten-year-old Della has always had her older sister, Suki: When their mom went to prison, Della had Suki. When their mom’s boyfriend took them in, Della had Suki. When that same boyfriend did something so awful they had to run fast, Della had Suki. Suki is Della’s own wolf — her protector. But who has been protecting Suki? Della might get told off for swearing at school, but she has always known how to keep quiet where it counts. Then Suki tries to kill herself, and Della’s world turns so far upside down, it feels like it’s shaking her by the ankles. Maybe she’s been quiet about the wrong things. Maybe it’s time to be loud.
In this powerful novel that explodes the stigma around child sexual abuse and leavens an intense tale with compassion and humor, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley tells a story about two sisters, linked by love and trauma, who must find their own voices before they can find their way back to each other.
It is a Newberry honor book, and for good reason. It is also a book that deals with some VERY heavy subjects, and so I am adding a caveat to this one: READ THIS WITH YOUR YOUNG READER. Here is why:
Della is a 10-year-old girl whose mother is incarcerated. After her mother blew up the motel room they were in (cooking meth is dangerous) when she was five, Della has relied on her older sister Suki to look out for her. And Suki has. But when Clifton (the mom’s boyfriend, not their father) is caught by Suki trying to touch Della inappropriately, Suki and Della find themselves in foster care. How will these girls deal with the challenges they are facing? And how long before the secret Suki has been hiding for years will finally come out?
This book is beautifully written. The characters are believable. I love Bradley’s use of “snow” as her cover word for swearing and the realistic ways Della deals with her emotions. Yes, Della uses “snow” a whole snowin’ lot. It’s a coping mechanism for her. Why would I encourage reading such a heavy book? Because too many children who have been sexually abused believe they are alone. Because too often the abused don’t want to acknowledge and speak out against the abusers for shame, or guilt, or fear of worse things happening. Some of the stats that are shared through Della’s talks with her counselor are heartbreaking. And we need to know it, so we can help stop it. This book also deals with depression and a suicide attempt with Suki. Again, I recommend this book for mature middle schoolers, to read together with an adult and talk about what’s happening. This book does have hope worked into it, and healing, which is really the author’s message: bad things can and do happen, but you can get help and healing, and love is a powerful motivator. Read it. You’ll cry, probably, and be disgusted, and yell, but also see that there is good in many places as well. 5 stars. and I don’t do that often.