A book to make readers think, question, reach, laugh, and strive harder.

THE NEXT GREAT PAULIE FINK

Starting at a new middle school can be a horrifying experience for anyone.

Seventh-grader Caitlyn finds it harder than she ever imagined. For one thing, she’s expected to help take care of the goats—and the kindergartners. Plus, none of her new classmates appear to play by the same social rules as her old middle school. Instead of trying to be cool, everyone at Mitchell stands out, and they do it on purpose. Even a kid who’s no longer there stands out. When Paulie Fink, legendary for his pranks, doesn’t return for seventh grade, his old classmates miss him so much they decide to hold a contest to name the next great Paulie Fink. Caitlyn, as the most objective person in the class, serves as organizer, judge, and jury. But by the time the next great Paulie Fink is named, Caitlyn understands that it’s far more than one person they’re trying to save. A story with massive heart, Benjamin’s follow-up to The Thing About Jellyfish (2015) proves this writer’s incredible wit, charm, and ability to navigate deep questions while tapping directly into the middle school mindset. The novel is rare for the ease with which it combines ancient Greek studies with modern-day issues such as bullying and change, helped along by a delightful multiracial cast. Diversity is communicated mostly via naming convention; Caitlyn seems to be default white.

A book to make readers think, question, reach, laugh, and strive harder. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-38088-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read.

RESTART

Will a bully always be a bully?

That’s the question eighth-grade football captain Chase Ambrose has to answer for himself after a fall from his roof leaves him with no memory of who and what he was. When he returns to Hiawassee Middle School, everything and everyone is new. The football players can hardly wait for him to come back to lead the team. Two, Bear Bratsky and Aaron Hakimian, seem to be special friends, but he’s not sure what they share. Other classmates seem fearful; he doesn’t know why. Temporarily barred from football because of his concussion, he finds a new home in the video club and, over time, develops a new reputation. He shoots videos with former bullying target Brendan Espinoza and even with Shoshanna Weber, who’d hated him passionately for persecuting her twin brother, Joel. Chase voluntarily continues visiting the nursing home where he’d been ordered to do community service before his fall, making a special friend of a decorated Korean War veteran. As his memories slowly return and he begins to piece together his former life, he’s appalled. His crimes were worse than bullying. Will he become that kind of person again? Set in the present day and told in the alternating voices of Chase and several classmates, this finding-your-middle-school-identity story explores provocative territory. Aside from naming conventions, the book subscribes to the white default.

Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: May 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-05377-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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