Kidlitcon happened! Providence was beautiful! I plan to pull together my notes from that soon, but for now, a couple of books by the wonderful Jo Knowles, who was on my panel called “You Can’t Say That in Middle Grade”, along with Ann Braden, Paula Chase, Barbara Dee, and Varian Johnson.
This is Jo’s new book, coming out in April, and which I read from an ARC that her publicist kindly sent me.
Where the Heart Is by Jo Knowles. Candlewick, April 2019.
Rachel has just turned 13, and it’s turning out to be a really tough year. (I remember 13 being very tough myself.) She got “engaged” to her best friend, Micah, when they were six, and though it sent off happy sparkly feelings at the time, it no longer does. He’s definitely interested in her romantically, and she just doesn’t feel that way about him, and maybe not any boy. Her parents are fighting about money more and more often, and there’s less and less food in the kitchen. It’s also hard to be stuck with second-hand clothes, including being the only middle school girl at the beach in a one-piece bathing suit. Despite all these tough things, there’s plenty of humor from her little sister, Ivy, as well as from Rachel’s job taking care of the animals on the hobby farm next door, especially the pig, Lucy, who knocks her down every time Rachel tries to feed her. Looking at all of Rachel’s life, and including normal friendship problems as well as the very serious financial crisis her family is in helped the book rise above the crisis to be a story of personal growth and love.
Jo’s previous book was just released in paperback, though I read my library’s hardcover.
Still a Work in Progress by Jo Knowles. Candlewick, 2016.
Seventh grade Noah is just trying to deal with life at school – stinky bathrooms, do any girls like him, and how will his trio of best friends hold together when one of them starts dating? Everyone adores his older sister, Emma, but he is afraid even to notice that she’s just pushing her food around on her plate, terrified that the Thing They Don’t Talk About might be happening again. Art is the only thing that’s keeping him sane, along with keeping the hairless school cat safe. But suddenly the rest of life at school – especially the morning meetings to discuss the comments in the suggestion box – seem completely pointless. Chapter titles are taken from the suggestion box discussion, including things like “Please Stop Standing on the Toilet Seats” and “Sequined Camouflage Is Not Appropriate at School.” This book looks at the hard work of carrying on with life when someone you love is having serious problems, with characters and an ending that hit the sweet spot in the middle between grim and rainbow unicorns.