Figuring out who you are and being ok with yourself are big themes for people in middle school. Those are awkward years where so much is changing emotionally and physically. Friends come and go, first crushes start, cliques form, and you start to wonder what you are really good at and what kind of jobs are worth pursuing. Fortunately, these are topics that are incredibly well suited for middle grade realistic fiction.
Two new books have not only covered these topics, but have also tied in the power of the newspaper and dreams of going into journalism. While there is a lot of kickback, bias, and fake news, journalism is still supposed to be the 4th estate. It hasn’t been for a long time, but as someone who studied the media before the power of the internet and bloggers, I still think of the power of the press.
The first book is The Library Club by Beth Vrabel. I have read a few other books by Vrabel and enjoyed them, so when she posted about this one on Instagram, I ordered a copy from my local bookstore. The story focuses on Nellie Murrow, a young girl who just moved to a small town in Maine. Her parents are both journalists, but her father is away in Asia and her mother is working on her novel. Nellie always hang out at the newsroom and is not as comfortable with people her own age. A strange string of vandalism and theft close down her favorite new park and ignite her passion for investigative journalism. She decides to not only go after the story, but to start her own journalism club in order to cover it. Through this, she needs to open up a bit and make some friends. Working on the article and paper gives her excuses to hang out with people and she winds up making friends anyway. Sprinkled with newspaper terminology, this was an endearing story of a kid going through a really tough time and trying to work her way through it. A great middle grade read!
Before getting a chance to start The Newspaper Club, I happened upon a graphic novel on Overdrive called Cub, by Cynthia L. Copeland. This graphic novel memoir tells the story of 12 year old Cindy in the early 1970s. The backdrop then features a town with underlying sexism where fathers praised their sons more than their daughters and where female reporters got assigned the “society” and “special interest” stories. Cindy is struggling with the fact that she is growing apart from her best friend, Katie, who has joined the popular kids. What she does have going for her is an awesome English teacher who hooks her up with a female journalist at the local paper for a mentor-ship. Cub helps the readers see an honest representation of dealing with life’s changes, of a girl smart enough to not change herself just to fit in the with popular crowd. Cindy has a first crush, finds new passions, deals with the mean girls, and scores some big wins. This is a great middle school graphic novel.