Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On the Clipboard

Here are some of the books that I found checked out on the clipboard this week!

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

Kiki Strike and the Empress's Tomb, by Kirsten Miller

Sugar and Ice, by Kate Messner

Home is East, by Many Ly

Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

What have your tweens been reading lately?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Jack Strong Takes a Stand, by Tommy Greenwald

Jack Strong is a typical middle school kid who goes to a typical middle school. He does well in school, he doesn't make trouble, and he pretty much blends in the middle of the pack with regard to popularity. Jack even goes as far as saying that he *likes* school...especially Cathy Billows (who is pretty enough to make Jack's eyebrows hurt), his favorite teacher Mrs. Bender, and his relaxing bus ride home.

Jack's troubles start when he reaches home.

This is when his schedule kicks in.  Jack has after school and weekend activities.  Many after school and weekend activities.  Jack's dad thinks that these activities are going to look great on Jack's college applications.  So whether it's soccer, cello, tennis, test prep, Chinese, swimming, math tutor, karate, little league or youth orchestra Jack is expected to give it his all.

The thing is, Jack doesn't like all of these activities.  Some of them are great, but others just make him tired.  More and more often Jack finds himself missing out on all of the social activities that his peers are engaging in.  After winning his little league game, Cathy (of the eyebrows) invites Jack to go with her and some friends to grab some hotdogs, but Jack's dad has scheduled a tennis clinic and he isn't allowed to go.

Jack has had enough.  The next Monday, when he gets home from school he hits the couch.  Soon it's time for him to go to soccer, and he decides he's not going to go.  When his dad gets on the phone to tell him why he should get going, Jack has this to say - "Dad, do you really want to know what the other kids are doing?  I'll tell you.  They're at the party you didn't let me go to because I had to get better at cello.  And they're getting the free ice cream sundaes that I missed because I had to get better at Chinese.  And they're celebrating winning the World Series, but they're celebrating without me, because I had to get better at tennis." (p. 69)  So Jack decides to go on strike.  He is staying on the couch until his folks let him drop some of his after school activities.

What follows is an interesting and insightful look into the life of an over scheduled kid.  Sure Jack's dad wants what is best for him, but can he even hear Jack when he says he'd like to drop some activities? Tommy Greenwald has a knack for the kid voice.  Jack (just like Charlie Joe) is authentic and likable. His strike, which in other hands could have seemed like a bratty move, doesn't come across that way at all.  Jack's agency and his heart come across loud and clear, and readers won't be able to help but root for his success.