Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: Planet Middle School

Summary: A fresh story of heartbreak and hope from award-winning author Nikki Grimes

For twelve years, Joylin Johnson's life has been just fine, thank you very much. A game of basketball with the boys-especially her friend Jake-was all it took to put a smile on her face. Baggy jeans, T-shirt, and hair in a ponytail were easy choices. Then suddenly the world seemed to turn upside down, and everything changed at once. Her best girl friend is now flirting with her best guy friend. Her clothes seem all wrong. Jake is acting weird, and basketball isn't the same. And worst of all, there is this guy, Santiago, who appears from . . . where? What lengths will Joy go to-and whom will she become-to attract his attention? 

In short poems that perfectly capture the crazy feelings of adolescence and first crushes, award-winning author Nikki Grimes has crafted a delightful, often hilarious, hearttugging story. -- Bloomsbury Kids

At this year's BEA, Kathy/Bermudaonion picked up a middle grade book that caught my eye.  It was called PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL by Nikki Grimes, and I was drawn to the book for a couple of reasons. First of all, the entire book was written in verse which I thought sounded kind of cool; and secondly, the novel is about a middle grade girl around the same age as Booking Daughter.

Thank goodness Kathy promised to share PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL with me after she was finished with it because I was desperate to read it after her review. She just raved about it and told me that she was anxious to hear what Booking Daughter and I thought about it. I couldn't agree with the thoughts that Kathy expressed. PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL is a fantastic book and I absolutely loved it!

PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL tells the story of Joy, a young girl who is trying to figure out how to survive her tween years. She lives with her mother, father, and younger brother; and she also has two best friends KeeLee and Jake. She is a tomboy at heart and excels at basketball, but she is also discovering her more feminine side. PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL is written in Joy's voice, but what makes it extra-special is that it is written in verse. I have read a few other books written in verse, and I've been surprised by how much I enjoy that style.

And that brings me to my next point... the writing in PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL is fantastic. I am deeply impressed with Ms. Grimes prose and I think she did a wonderful job in creating some realistic and lovable characters. Of course, I adored Joy and loved her honestly; however, I also found myself appreciating Joy's mother and brother along with her sensible best friends. (I just wish I had surrounded myself with such valuable friends during my middle school years.) I also loved how Ms. Grimes managed to deal with some very important (and very real) tween issues with a sense of compassion while also keeping a sense of humor. I think it helped keep some of those all-consuming issues in perspective.

But at the heart of this book is Joy and what a great character she is. Even as a middle-aged woman, I could relate to her! Joy is experiencing much of what every middle grade girl has felt at some time. She's trying to accept her body and hormonal changes, while at the same time trying to figure out who she really is. She is dealing with the ups and downs of long-time friendships and also discovering her attraction for boys... and how those feelings can make her do some crazy things. Middle school years are full of so much change and I think Joy's character demonstrated them so well.

I enjoyed PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL and I can't wait to share it with Booking Daughter. I'm so curious to see if she agrees with me about the honesty of this novel. While Booking Daughter is very different from Joy -- namely because she's not a tomboy, I am very interested to see if she will still relate to her. I have a feeling that she will. And I think that every girl or woman who reads PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL will relate to Joy and fall in love with her character.

PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL would be an excellent choice for a discussion book either in the classroom or for a book club. There is an excellent teacher's guide which has twenty discussion questions. In addition, there are some supplemental exercises which can help enrich the understanding of the book including writing and vocabulary assignments. Some of the topics you might want to further explore include friendships, parent/child relationships, honesty, staying true to one's self, physical changes, individual gifts, self-doubt, and confidence.

I just loved PLANET MIDDLE SCHOOL and I can't recommend it enough!

I received a copy of this book from Kathy/Bermudaonion who received it at the 2011 BEA.


bermudaonion said...

Oh, how I adored this book! I still think about Joy and her friends from time to time. Your review is excellent and blows mine away!

Beth F said...

I wanted to read this after seeing Kathy's review. Now I really, really want to read it. Great review.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I knew after Kathy's review I should read this, but somehow I'm intimidated by books in verse!