Sunday, September 16, 2007
Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf
Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer Holm, illustrated by Elicia Castaldi, 2007
So, the blasted drive-through shorted our dinner order, no coleslaw. As I scrabbled through my purse to find the receipt proving I had paid for it, the flotsam and jetsam of my life floated out too. There was a post-it note with a phone number I needed, a receipt for the dog's visit to the vet, fast-acting glucose tablets, my daughter's class schedule, a flash drive and various other artifacts and odd bits of life that really do tell the story of my daily existence.
As I picked up Jennifer Holm's book, Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff and began to read, my purse's contents flashed through my mind. Using notes, programs, hair salon receipts, report cards, post-it notes, greeting cards and newspaper clippings in a scrapbook format, Holm weaves the story of Ginny Davis. Ginny thinks the worst thing she is facing in seventh grade is the school meatloaf. Through IMs to her friend and in school papers we learn about her family. We learn that she loves ballet and hopes her mother will remarry. We understand that her older brother is a mess and makes his family's life difficult. When her mom remarries, Ginny could not be happier but a mistake puts her into a tail spin emotionally and academically as her family life gets crazier.
I do not want to give away too much of this story because the humor and emotion build with each item on the page and it would not be fair to the story to spoil the surprises.
I will confess that I was reading the book while I was fixing its MARC record. I became hopelessly involved in the story though and when I saw the image of the program for Ginny's ballet recital I gasped so loudly the library aide wondered what was wrong with me.
Jennifer Holm has a gift for creating characters that readers care deeply about. May Amelia, Penny, Babymouse and now Ginny are girls that stay with me even after I finish their stories.
Elicia Castaldi has created the look and feel of real items in an actual scrapbook. She has designed and positioned each item so the story flows naturally. Matt Holm has an illustrator-cameo, contributing some cartoon panels dealing with Ginny's brother.
This novel is very accessible for readers of all levels and strengths. I would start waving copies of this book ASAP at reading specialists and teachers. Since the story is told in mostly short bursts of information it would build reading confidence and help readers "see" the story in their imagination as it plays out.
This is a sweet story, cleverly told, that will find an eager audience. Get it on the shelf and stand back. This is going to be a hit.