There are times when we read a book and decide that it is one of those books that everyone should read. Granted, as a book blogger I tend to encourage people to read a lot of the books that I read, but Sticks and Stones by Abby Cooper is one of those gems that have such wonderful lessons told in such a remarkable way that I wish more kids would pick it up.
The concept of the story is that Elyse is a 12 year old girl who has a rare disorder that makes the words other people say about her appear on her body. The words form on her skin like a tattoo and if they are negative, they itch. When she was little, it wasn’t such a big deal, the words were kind like “cute” and “adorable.” But now Elyse is entering middle school and the words are definitely less kind. On top of it all, now anything that she even thinks about herself shows up as well.
Middle school kids can be unkind. Middle school is also a time in a kid’s life, especially girls, when they really start to be unkind to themselves. Not all kids, but a decent percentage. They say that sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you. I beg to differ. Words can hurt so much worse. A scrapped knee will heal, but negative words will stay with you for quite some time. I know that my own 11 year old has long struggled with what others think of her. It can be hard to be different and in a small town where sports are all the rage, a bookish theater nerd stands out. She love who she is, but it is also a challenge to feel different.
Elyse had been protected in elementary school. The kids in her grade had always been the same they were trained not to say mean things about her. Plus, her best friend help watch out for her. But as she has moved to middle school, she is confronted with kids who know nothing about her disorder and who simply don’t care.
This is a wonderful book for all middle schoolers. It is a great look at how the things you say affect others and how self-acceptance is so important. It is a look at the relationships in our lives and how they change over time and circumstance (something that also starts to play a big role as kids mature). There is that touch of magic infused in the story, but in a magical realism sense. This book is still very true to the plight of middle school kids.
For people that enjoy this one, Abby Cooper also wrote a second novel that came out last year called “Bubbles” about a girl who starts to see thought bubbles over peoples’ heads, letting her know their thoughts. I haven’t managed to read it yet, but definitely plan to.