cover image Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff

Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff

Jennifer L. Holm, , illus. by Elicia Castaldi. . Atheneum/Seo, $12.99 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-689-85281-7

Two-time Newbery Honor author Holm (Our Only May Amelia ) and Castaldi (Miss Polly Has a Dolly ) gather an eclectic assemblage of “stuff” to chronicle the intermittently bumpy year of a smart, sassy seventh grader. As the months pass, Ginny tackles an impressive to-do list. Among the entries: “Get a dad” (she does, when her widowed mother remarries); “Get the role of the Sugarplum Fairy” (she doesn’t; worse, her former best friend—who never returned the sweater she borrowed—does); and “Convince mom to let me go see Grampa Joe over Easter break” (he lives in Florida). Ginny also writes poems and IMs friends, and her older brother, Henry, draws a series of comics. The collages that make up the pages here look perky: appealing mixes of objects like bottle-cap linings and candy wrappers, or spreads that combine hair dye boxes, drugstore receipts, salon bills for “color reversal” and a bank check to tell a story. But the inviting format disguises a darker side. Ginny worries, with cause, about Henry, who drinks and drives; resents her new stepfather’s ways; and her normally excellent grades take an abrupt nosedive. The everyday tensions of seventh grade show up, too, via the ex–best friend and a pesky little brother. The punchy visuals and the sharp, funny details reel in the audience and don’t let go. Ages 8-12. (July)