Here are two about adjusting to middle school and the friend shifting that happens.
Maggie & Abby’s Neverending Pillow Fort by Will Taylor. HarperCollins, 2018.
Introverted, imaginative Maggie, who is white, is a one-friend kind of girl. She’s spent most of the summer waiting for her best friend Abby Hernandez to come back from summer camp, building a pillow fort for the two of them to play with in the meantime. But when Abby comes back, she wants to make their friendship more like camp, with dances and more people. Abby is horrified.
They’re both intrigued, though, when pillow forts in their separate houses connect – and then connect to even farther places, like Maggie’s Uncle Joe in Alaska. Things get even stranger when Maggie is contacted by NAFAFA, the North American Founding and Allied Forts Alliance, who set a challenge that she and Abby must meet in order to keep their fort abilities.
There’s a lot of focus on the friendship here, obviously, though other family members get some time, too – Maggie struggling with her mother’s too-long hours as a pediatric oncologist, and Abby getting to know her father’s new boyfriend, Tamal. This is all mixed in with the convoluted politics and rules of NAFAFA, for hilarious chaos. The ending felt a little odd, but overall, this was fun with plenty of kid appeal.
The 11:11 Wish by Kim Tomsic. HarperCollins, 2018
Megan and her family are recovering from the recent death of Megan’s mother (in a car accident, for a change from the frequent death of fictional parents by cancer.) Her father’s decided that a new town will help, so Megan is starting eighth grade as a new student at Saguaro Prep Middle School. She’s hoping the move will help her shed her old reputation as a math nerd white girl.
On her way in to school the first day, a girl writes “Zap” on her hand and tells her she has to do something memorable. Not only is this a challenge, but it turns out it’s thrown Megan into the middle of a conflict between two rivals for class president, Ally and Rhena. When she sees a cat clock in her teacher’s room, she remembers a rhyme her grandmother taught her and hopes that making a wish at 11:11 will help solve all her problems.
But are magic makeovers really the key to happiness? Can Megan make friends and still be true to her math-loving heart? And could Rhena’s super-cute cousin really like her, even if Rhena herself clearly doesn’t? Megan will have to figure it out – with some help from her more socially adept younger sister, Piper.
The message is predictable, and I was a bit sad to find (spoiler!) that the message overall was the magic should never be used. What fantasy reader wants to hear that? While it didn’t quite work for me as a fantasy book for that reason, this is still a good one to give to kids looking books about adjusting to middle school that blend realistic problems with humor and the improbable.
These books have been nominated for the Cybils award. This review reflects my opinion, not that of the Cybils committee.