Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Middle School Picks

by Gordon Korman
Scholastic, 2007.
208 pages

Gordon Korman has done it again--written an unforgettable novel that kids will love. They will laugh out loud at Cap's (Capricorn's) problems to fit in to a "normal" middle school environment. Cap has never been to a school before--he has been raised by his hippie grandma, Rain, on a 60's style commune called Garland Farm. The trouble is that there are only two inhabitants left on the commune, Cap and Rain--other "hippie commune" types moved away years ago before Cap can remember. When Rain falls out of a tree and breaks her leg, Cap is forced into the state's foster care system. Lucky for him, the social worker assigned to his case grew up on Garland Farm, was once raised by hippies and home schooled like Cap. She takes him into her own home to her daughter Sophie's chagrin. Imagine a 13-year old boy who has never watched television, never played a video game, and never been to the mall or Walmart! Cap is like an alien who drops out of the sky into this hideous place called middle school. Poor Cap, he's heard of pizza and crime, but never seen either one. At one point, he asks Rain, "What is a Starbuck?"

The story is told in chapters by all the players: Cap's grandma Rain, Cap's social worker--Floramundi Donnally, Cap himself, Zach Powers--the most popular boy, Hugh Winkleman--the nerd, even the principal tells a tale of woe. Cap becomes president of the 8th grade class as a prank on him, but the other middle school kids are drawn to his easy smile, happy outlook, and "love everyone" attitude. The pranksters fail at humiliating the new kid and learn lessons in the end.

You gotta love Capricorn Anderson; he's the real deal--a product of a hippie commune, a gentle soul who believes in sharing and love, a boy untouched by media hype and whose mind is open to all that is around him, a kid whose nose is not buried in his Iphone or text mail.

Highly recommended for all middle school collections. Suitable for grades 5 and up. Suitable for high school readers who like Korman's earlier novels.

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