Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Not a Dr. Logan’s Divorce Book – a Survival Guide for Kids Stuck in the Middle

Dr_-Logan-New-Cover-EatonNot a Dr. Logan’s Divorce Book, by Sydney Salter (2014, Character Publishing), $16.99 ISBN: 978-0-9890797-5-4

Recommended for ages 8-13

Eleven-year-old Logan’s parents have split up, turning her life upside down. Her father has already moved on and is dating; she and her mother have relocated from their house to a small apartment, and she’s feeling left behind by her friends, her father’s family – even her father, himself. Logan’s mom immerses herself in the teachings of a self-help author/TV host, Dr. Donna; Logan finds Dr. Donna quotes taped up all over her home. To combat her feelings of helplessness and frustration, Logan begins her own (Not a) Doctor Logan’s Divorce Book, part journal, part book of lists for dealing with the hurdles of being a child of divorce, all survival guide for kids.

I did not expect this book to bowl me over as hard as it did. Like half the country, I’m a child of divorce. Although my parents split when I was 18, rather than 11, I went through many of the same emotional upheavals and experienced so many of the same feelings that Logan describes – especially the feelings of anger and frustration with the parent that left. Ms. Salter covers the depression one parent experiences, and the almost teen-like personality the other parent takes on – how is a kid supposed to deal with this? She also manages to find the humor in every situation, from Logan’s botched “love magic” that she hopes will reunite her parents, to her idea that shirking her schoolwork will reunite her parents, albeit in the principal’s office. We take Logan’s journey with her, and see her through to the other side, when things just may get better after all.

The story, written in the first person, allows readers to place themselves in Logan’s shoes. Illustrations by Chelsea Eaton give firmer shape to the story, and I loved the journal entries, complete with notebook spiral rings. Different fonts help emphasize Logan’s writing versus her overall narrative.

Book discussion questions at the end are helpful to both book discussion groups and parents who may want to read this book with their kids, letting the questions lead them into deeper conversations about any life changes going on. There are also links to divorce resources for children and parents alike.

Sydney Salter dedicates the book to us readers, and to her nine-year-old self. My 40-something self thanks her for it. I’ll be getting this on the shelves at my library, where kids who need it will be able to find it.

The author’s webpage includes a Q&A, discussion questions about her other books, links to her social media, and a link to her blog.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade

Cybils Middle Grade At-a-Glance: The Meaning of Maggie & All Four Stars

I’ve been quiet lately, because I’ve been plowing through my Cybils middle grade fiction nominees. Here are some thoughts.

meaning of maggieThe Meaning of Maggie, by Megan Jean Sovern (2014, Chronicle Books) $16.99, ISBN: 978-1452110219

Recommended for ages 9-12

Set in the 1980s, Maggie’s an 11 year-old girl who wants to be president one day. She’s funny, quirky, and seemingly always at odds with her two older sisters. Her family is coping with her father’s increasingly worsening multiple sclerosis, the severity of which they try to shield from Maggie.

I enjoyed this book, in part because one of my childhood friends lost her mom to MS. Reading this book helped me, in a way, understand what my friend went through all those years ago, when we were all far too young to understand it. The author drew upon her own life to write this book, and for that, I’m thankful. Maggie is engaging and quirky, and as frustrating as I found her dad, in his ultimate quest to “be cool”, I saw his struggle to hang on when everything was falling apart around him.

all four stars coverAll Four Stars, by Tara Dairman (2014, Putnam Juvenile), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0399162527

Recommended for ages 9-12

An 11 year-old foodie raised by junk food junkies has to be one of the best story plots I’ve come across in a while!

Gladys LOVES cooking. It’s her passion. She has a cookbook collection, watches cooking shows with a passion her classmates reserve for video games… and her parents just don’t get it. They microwave everything that they don’t bring home in a greasy bag. How can a foodie live like this?

When Gladys enters an essay contest for the New York Standard newspaper, her essay ends up in the hands of the food editor – who thinks it’s a cover letter. Gladys finds herself with a freelance assignment – to test out a new dessert restaurant in Manhattan! How can she visit the restaurant and write her review without her parents catching on?

This book just made me happy. It’s a fun story, with an instantly likable main character. Even her antagonists are likable, if a bit clueless. The plot moves along at a great pace, and I found myself chuckling out loud at some of the situations Gladys found herself in while trying to keep her secret. This is a great book to put into kids’ hands, a welcome lift from the heaviness that seems to permeate middle grade realistic fiction these days. I can’t wait to read the sequel, The Stars of Summer, when it hits shelves this summer.