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.


Anonymous said...

Based on your review, I will look for it. Although I wish I liked the cover a whole lot better.

Camille said...

The cover suggests the interior of the book with information conveyed in different formats and on different media. It takes a minute to orient yourself to the way the story will be told.

Having just gone through yet another school picture day with my daughter, I was struck by how normal and universal Ginny is which is why girls will identify with her. Is it too much to ask that one year she could get a good picture in the yearbook?

AMY T said...

I just requested it at my local library. Step 1 on its journey to becoming a permanent part of my classroom library. BTW: thanks so much for posting this after it's been published and available to all us normal schmucks....

I hate reading advanced reviews cuz, books that either aren't in the library system or come up unrequestable. Chances are high I never remember to get them later.

jenclair said...

I love the title! Your review caught my attention, too; I like the idea of using the receipts, report cards, etc. This one sounds like a winner.

Anonymous said...

This book sounds great...I'll have to order it at work. Thanks for the review!

VWB said...

Boy, do I relate to this!

"I will confess that I was reading the book while I was fixing its MARC record. I became hopelessly involved in the story though..."

I see so many good things in my capacity as district cataloger and more times than I care to think, do I get wrapped up in one!