In 11 stories, editor Groban has compiled a collection for the 12-year-old in all of us from beloved authors such as Karen Cushman, David Wiesner, Margarita Engle, and Lois Lowry.
In this ode to middle school, in all of its difficult and awkward glory, readers will get a glimpse into the adolescences of a diverse cast of characters with varying experiences, helping them see the world through someone else’s eyes. With poetry, short stories, text message “conversations,” and even a comic strip (some fictional and some based on the authors’ real-life experiences), this collection tries to give its readers everything, with mixed results. Some stories, such as “How to Make S’mores,” by Hena Khan, and “Dog People,” by Linda Sue Park and Anna Dobbin (Park’s daughter), really show how difficult and wonderful the middle school years can be, especially when we take a chance on something new. Too many others, however, feel ancillary to the theme; although they have characters of the right age, the point of the story has little or nothing to do with, well, middle school, which may puzzle readers lured by the title. “When She Whined in Her Sleep,” by Gary D. Schmidt, for instance, is a good story, but it is more a lyrically wrought critique of war than an exploration of the middle school experience.
A solid anthology for young readers, if somewhat lacking cohesion. (Anthology. 9-13)