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Middle Grade Fiction – I’m OK by Patti Kim

I’M OK
Written by Patti Kim
(Atheneum BYR; $16.99, Ages 10 and up)

 

I'm OK book cover

 

In the middle grade novel I’m OK by Patti Kim, twelve-year-old Ok Lee’s world begins to fall apart when his father dies suddenly. Even though his mother works three jobs, they barely get by. To help out financially, Ok starts braiding girls’ hair at school and resolves to win the talent show’s $100 prize—though he doesn’t have a talent in mind.

The flawed characters in I’m Ok weave together realistically in a story about the imperfect lives of recent immigrants and middle schoolers. Ok’s unwitting sidekick is Mickey McDonald, a girl with the biggest hair and a personality to match. Her family’s also poor but she doesn’t care what other people think. Mickey adds a lively, funny element to a story that also depicts race and social class discrimination. Set at an indeterminate time, Americana details such as Enjoli perfume or the TV shows “Charlie’s Angels” and “MacGyver” will resonate with older readers.

The ending feels genuine and opens the door to talking about why life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect or want. Ok is bound to his mother, and her decisions direct their future.

This was June’s book-of-the-month at Chevalier’s Books’ middle-grade book club in Los Angeles. I’m Ok was well liked by all. The animated discussion considered many interesting elements of this novel including nice story-writing details such as how the story is bookended by two similar yet quite different scenes.

 

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Epic Antics Mockumentary-Style

Yesterday I attended what has become an annual and much looked forward to event, the Mother/Daughter Book Party at Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse in La Canada.

Seven super talented female authors attended and lots more moms and daughters.  I had a chance to sit down at each author’s table and learn more about the books they had written and I am delighted to be able to share that information with you.  If you’ve got a 3rd – 6th grader who loves to read, here are some great books to choose from. Today I’ll cover  San Luis Obispo author Robin Mellom’s middle grade novel.

tmb_240x240_bks_the_classroom_1423150635Mellom has penned a clever mockumentary in book form called The Classroom: The Epic Documentary of a Not-Yet-Epic Kid ($12.99,  DisneyHyperion, ages 9 and up), and it’s not just for girls. The title alone conjures humorous images but the illustrations by Stephen Gilpin really add the “you are there” quality that will bring a smile to every reader’s face. Mellom described the artwork as having a “Far Side” comic strip feeling, which it does, and which works perfectly considering the storyline.

Trevor is starting 7th grade and on his very first day he learns from his best friend Libby that he must find a date by day’s end for the dance that is just around the corner. If he doesn’t ask someone to the dance, all the girls he could invite would already have been asked spelling disaster for Trevor. Plus on top of all this, a film crew has come to the school and his every move will be captured up close and personal! This was not the 7th grade life he imagined and could it get any worse?

Kids will get a kick out of the way the book includes one funny antic after another. Also featured are “documentary-style” items found by the film makers to help paint a picture of Trevor such as drawings from Trevor’s notebook and an old yearbook picture. In a nutshell, if Trevor can just get through 7th grade until the big dance, things could turn out okay, even epic.

Reviewed by Ronna Mandel

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Worst-Case Scenario: Middle School

ilovereedIn her free time, guest reviewer and 6th grader Shira loves to listen to Taylor Swift, read, and text or IM her friends from camp and different sport teams. When she isn’t doing homework, she is playing cards, swimming, or talking with friends. She loves to read, especially fiction books!

The Worst Case Scenario
Survival Handbook: Middle School

By David Borgenicht, Ben H. Winters, and Robin Epstein

This book is everything a new middle schooler will need! It has tips from wardrobe emergencies to being the shortest guy in school to having your 9780811868648_normsibling attending school with you to surviving horrible haircuts! There are also super-helpful hints, like how to organize your backpack, study for tests, and survive the school dance. One of the most important things in Middle School is your locker. This is used for keeping those all important, extra in-case-of-emergency clothes and shoes, hygienic products, Chap-stick/lip gloss, and books for class. I really enjoyed the tips on how to keep your backpack and locker clean, and the tips for stopping bullies and cheaters were really good! This is a book every soon-to-be middle schooler should have.

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