Middle school friends see challenges from different perspectives in this resource book for teens and their caretakers.
This set of stories about several middle schoolers is conceived as “a tool for extensive discussion and thought…to support sound emotional learning at home and in the school.” Debut authors Gil-Kashiwabara, Laing, and Whitehouse are all psychologists and parents. This first book in a planned series focuses on the topics of bullying, social media, and honesty, with each chapter showing one kid’s perspective on the same events in a Rashomon-like style. Lafayette, Oregon’s North Morgan Middle School is home to seventh-graders Ben Campbell, Elías Muñoz, Ruby Monroe, and Penelope Whitaker. All are discovering that things are different in middle school: classes are more challenging, girls and boys hang out in cliques, and there’s even going to be a school dance. Ben gets hardworking Elías in trouble when he tries to copy his paper during a test; both boys are interested in Ruby, who discovers that Penelope, a popular, rich girl, has a mean side; and Penelope feels emotionally neglected by her father. Through honesty and reaching out to others, can Ben and Elías work on repairing their friendship, and can Ruby stand up to Penelope? Also, can Penelope admit that she’s been a bully? The book includes a companion guide with discussion questions, such as “How might Ben feel if he cheats?” The stories are written in an entertaining style that sympathetically addresses the thoughts and concerns of tweens; as a result, the tales are likely to succeed in sparking discussion. The characters ask themselves good questions and take time to think about answers, as when Ben realizes that he could have studied and that it wasn’t fair to cheat from his friend’s work. At times, the insights seem overly pat—the friends are remarkably quick to apologize and do better, for example. Also, the satisfying idea that most bullies “usually feel bad about themselves” has been contradicted by research elsewhere.
A useful, readable approach to emotional intelligence in middle school.