Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes

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Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781619630123
(Age: 11-14) Highly recommended. Themes: Coming of Age; Identity; Growing up; Puberty. Jeans and sports shoes are the attire of choice for Joylin. She is the girl who would prefer to play basketball rather than do anything that her female friends are interested in. Playing basketball with her friend Jake and the other guys is much more fun than anything else. Her attitude towards the girls at school is full of disdain as they swoon in front of the boys, or primp and preen in front of the mirror, until . . . Santiago comes into her field of view. We then see that Joylin is in fact a normal young person about to undergo the transformations that all teens experience in varying ways. But will she lose herself in the process?
This is a lovely story of growing up and the relentless changes that creep up on a young person as puberty impacts life. Joylin's honesty and the journey through the beginnings of desire are delightful in their revelation for a younger reader. (This would make a good Growth and Development read-aloud for a year 6/7 class). There are other characters in the story who are also dealing with identity (Joylin's younger brother Caden, the artistic, non-sporty type, and her friend KeeLee, the Pastor's daughter; and Glory, the 'dressed-up' basketball star, and maybe even, Jake, the reliable friend.)
Written in a Prose Poetry style, this book would be excellent for a reader who struggles with longer text, but who is on the cusp of Middle School life. But it will be equally enjoyed by capable readers because they will recognise the changes that are flowing through the story.
Highly recommended for age 11-14 years
Carolyn Hull