I'm three books into my goal of 40! I enjoyed all three of these and it wasn't until I finished them that I realized all of the books have middle school boys as the main character.
In The last Boy at St. Edith's by Lee Malone, Jeremy Miner attends St. Edith's Catholic School. It's a great school in a good neighborhood, and he is lucky that he gets to attend. As the title suggests, there's one slight problem- Jeremy is the only boy. There used to be more but they have dropped out one by one until only Jeremy remains. He can't transfer because he is getting free tuition (his mom works there), so he is stuck! The girls treat Jeremy like he's one of them, and no one understands how hard it is not to have any male friends or influences. That leaves him, in his mind, with one option- he has to get expelled! Jeremy and his friend Claudia begin a series of pranks that they are sure will get him removed from school. As with most practical jokes, things don't exactly go as planned and when they begin to backfire, Jeremy must decide how far he will go. Eventually Jeremy realizes that even without other boys, his friends, school, and teachers are pretty great, but is it too late?
This book was really clever and funny and the plot was original. Surprisingly, the female author did a fabulous job of capturing the angst a lonely 7th grade boy must be feeling in that situation. The pranks Jeremy pulls were funny- until they weren't. The things that went wrong made me cringe and when he got in over his head, I was screaming at the page for him to stop and confess! Also, I liked watching him grow up a little and realize what's really important in his life. His friendships with the girls are sweet and deeper than he initially thinks. I believe older boys and girls (5th and up) will enjoy this story.
Like the other books I read this week, All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor, is a refreshing original story. How many synonyms can I find for the word LOVE to describe how I feel about this book?
Perry is like any other middle school student in many ways. He loves his Mom, his friends from home, and his very best school friend, Zoey. What sets him apart from others his age is that his home is Blue River Prison, and he has lived there all of his life. When Perry was born, his mom (an inmate) found a way for him to stay with her. He grew up running free around the prison, playing in the laundry baskets, running around the track with the other inmates, and even celebrating his birthdays in funny ways. The inmates are his protectors and closest friends. He leaves the prison for school and various activities but each night comes home to Blue River for dinner and time with his family. Perry is incredibly happy and content. One day, an overzealous District Attorney learns about Perry and removes him from the only home he's ever known. Perry is determined to find a way back to the prison and in doing so, he learns how most of the inmates came to be at Blue River- even his own mother. The answers he uncovers are surprising and teach him lessons about life and second chances.
Despite roadblocks and a very unconventional upbringing, Perry thrives in the prison. He is happy and well cared for. Just because his life is different, doesn't mean it's wrong. Blue River is a co-ed minimum security prison that seems more like a camp- not scary for readers at all. There are so many lessons in this book about friendship, mistakes, and being unique. Perry is a lovable character along with his mother, Big Ed, the Warden and the other colorful inmates. It's funny and suspenseful as we wait to see if Perry succeeds in his mission. This book radiates hope and left me feeling warm and fuzzy! I think it's geared more towards an advanced reader because it's long and detailed but they won't be sorry they gave it a chance.
Break out the tissues for this one! John David Anderson's Ms. Bixby's Last Day is the story of three boys determined to give their favorite teacher (who is sick) one perfect day. Ms. Bixby, with a pink streak in her hair, is the kind of teacher who makes learning fun. She makes school interesting and earns the respect of her middle school students. She clearly cares about them and they feel the same way about her. As the story starts, she reveals she is ill and has to leave school before the end of the year. She doesn't even get to stay for her planned goodbye party. Topher, Steve and Brand decide that Ms. Bixby deserves a perfect last day, and they set out to make it happen. Of course as 12-year-olds, it's difficult for them to get to her with all the supplies they need for the last day. They have to navigate the city bus route, an expensive bakery, a thief, and a book seller who speaks in riddles to make it to Ms. Bixby.
What starts as a story about Ms. Bixby's leaving actually revels itself to be more about the three boys in her class and how she has affected their lives. Each of the boys has an unexpected back story and Ms. Bixby has influenced them in an inspiring and wonderful way. Their determination to get to her is endearing and the plan they have for her perfect day is incredibly touching. While skipping school is NOT ok, their earnest reasons for doing so makes it forgivable. This is a beautiful book about the positive relationships teachers can have with their students, and it reminds me how special it is to be a teacher. Because it deals with illness and some other heavy topics, a reader who is a little more mature might like it better. I highly recommend this one.