Carson and Bruce McCandless’ (Six Poems and a Song, 2017, etc.) light-verse guide to surviving middle school explains and rates common dangers and provides survival tips.
As everyone knows, going through middle school is a perilous journey that few survive unscathed. Luckily, there’s now an amusing and friendly handbook to guide readers through the worst of it. Some of the dangers described here will be familiar to most kids, such as “Mean Kids” and “Bullies”; others less so, such as “Robots” and “Aliens.” Still others have always lurked but haven’t always been named (“The Patriarchy”; “Body Shamers”). Each short chapter describes a particular danger in amusing but literate light verse; most entries include a danger rating and several tips on survival. For example, the opening piece, “Aliens,” assumes that they must be out there—so why haven’t they shown themselves? But maybe we don’t want them to: “What if, when they go to give us a hug, / They transmit some creepy carnivorous slug?” The danger rating, in this case, is “Speculative, but possibly cataclysmic”; survival tips include avoiding contact and hiding “under the bed—they never look there.” Reassuring! The rhymes and wordplay in the verse sections are witty and inventive, as in “Australia”: “Since ¾ of the fauna you see will assail ya, / and not even the stoutest first-aid will avail ya, / unless you’re decked out in tungsten regalia, / it’s probably best to steer clear of Australia!” (Survival tip: “Try New Zealand.”) The book’s Ogden Nash–like playfulness makes an excellent counterpart to the danger theme, but it provides some solid information, too, among the humor. The “Bullies” survival tips, in particular, are on-point: boys, for example, should avoid the weight room when it’s being used by the football or wrestling teams. And the danger rating for “The Patriarchy” is all too true: “Relentless, though occasionally difficult to detect.” The authors wisely conclude by reminding readers that there’s more to life than fear: “And nobody knows how they’re gonna get through it. / There’s no use in dread. Just get out and do it!”
Delightful verse and surprisingly useful tips make this a winner.