Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kid Konnection: How to Survive Middle School

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a (hopefully) regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. Today I'm going to review a great book called HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL (WITHOUT GETTING YOUR HEAD FLUSHED) AND DEAL WITH AN EX-BEST FRIEND, ...UM, GIRLS, AND A HEARTBREAKING HAMSTER by Donna Gephart (a fellow Penn State alum!)

Summary: Eleven-year-old David Greenberg dreams of becoming a TV superstar like his idol, Jon Stewart. But in real life, David is just another kid terrified of starting his first year at Harman Middle School. With a wacky sense of humor and hilarious Top 6½ Lists, David spends his free time making Talk Time videos, which he posts on YouTube. But before he can get famous, he has to figure out a way to deal with:

6. Middle school (much scarier than it sounds!)
5. His best friend gone girl-crazy
4. A runaway mom who has no phone!
3. The threat of a swirlie on his birthday
2. A terrifying cousin
1. His # 1 fan, Bubbe (his Jewish grandmother)
1/2. Did we mention Hammy, the hamster who’s determined to break David’s heart?

When David and his best friend have a fight, David is lucky enough to make a pretty cool new friend, Sophie–who just (gulp) happens to be a girl. Sophie thinks David’s videos are hilarious, and she starts sending out the links to everyone she knows. Sophie’s friends tell their friends, and before David knows it, thousands of people are viewing his videos–including some of the last people he would have expected.

David may still feel like a real-life schmo, but is he ready to become an Internet superstar? -- Delacorte Press

HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL (WITHOUT GETTING YOUR HEAD FLUSHED) AND DEAL WITH AN EX-BEST FRIEND, ...UM, GIRLS, AND A HEARTBREAKING HAMSTER by Donna Gephart is an extremely fun book that kids are guaranteed to love. It is the story of David Greenberg, a pre-teen boy who aspires to be the next Jon Stewart! In the meantime, he attends middle school where he's not exactly in the cool crowd and he makes videos with his pet hamster Hammy for fun. When he and his best friend have a falling out, he finds himself friends with the new girl Sophie. David learns that his life is full of changes, and with Sophie's help, he suddenly becomes famous!

I so enjoyed this very funny novel. There is no doubt that Ms. Gephart has a wonderful sense of humor. At times, I even laughed out loud while reading this book. David is just a fantastic character, and I couldn't help but fall a little in love with him. He was so smart and creative (and a little naive), and he had great insight into life. But what I really found funny was his ability to laugh at himself. He was such a great kid, and I think lots of readers are going to be able to relate to him!

While this novel was extremely entertaining, it was also very touching and tender. David's mother left the family and moved away. She has little contact with David except for letters, and it's obvious that David misses her dearly. My heart really went out to him over and over again for the pain he felt from being abandoned. In addition, I also felt compassion towards David because of his insecurities. He was worried about starting middle school (he had many of the same feelings that my daughter currently has) and he actually feared some of the bullies at school. I also think David's pre-teen anxieties are going to resonate with many young readers.

I also loved the cover of this book too! Hammy is just too cute and definitely deserves to be the cover boy, but I also liked how the entire cover looks like a video (with play and volume buttons!) I thought this cover absolutely captured the fun feel of this novel and fit perfectly with David's Talk Time videos, and you can't help love little Hammy. Check out this Hammy Time video (which also serves as a book trailer) -- it's very cute!

Almost two years ago, I reviewed another book by Ms. Gephart -- AS IF BEING 12 3/4 ISN'T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. While both Booking Daughter and I really liked it, I think I enjoyed HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL even more! Ms. Gephart is definitely a force to be reckoned with in middle grade fiction. She has the great ability to tell a good story while also making the reader laugh -- it's a great combination of fun! I also love that her books appeal to both boys and girls and that they have wonderful messages!

I would consider HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL for a future mother-daughter book club pick. However, I think it would a fantastic choice for a mother-son (or father-son) group because the main character is a tween boy! The book gives the reader such an honest look at a pre-teen boy -- the insecurities as well as the hormones -- and I think there is a great deal to discuss. Some of the topics you might want to explore include loyalty, bullying, family dynamics, loss, crushes, creativity, change, and the big one - friendship.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.

Since Ms. Gephart is a Penn Stater (and so am I), this review counts as part of my Back-to-School Feature. Make sure you check out all of posts I have written about fellow Penn State writers, and feel free to add your links about any posts related to your favorite school. In fact, if you feature a book related to any school that you attended, root for or even live near, it can count -- it's all about school spirit.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


Sandy Nawrot said...

Yeah, I was going to say that this is something that I think my son might like. My daughter probably wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole! I can certainly see why any kid in middle school would benefit from the humor, as we have found it very challenging!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I love the cover too! Ugh, middle school was the worst for me - I would have loved a book like this!

Wild About Words said...

Thanks so much for the lovely review! I'm hopeful my book helps ease that difficult transition from childhood to adulthood with a few laughs along the way.
I really appreciate your kind words.
Best regards,

Alee said...

I love this feature! I just wrote a review of a YA novel, so I posted a link as well. Thanks for the review!

bermudaonion said...

This book sounds fantastic! Middle school is such a tough time for kids and if this helps one kid, it's a great book.