As an eighth grade middle school teacher, I tend to read more young adult fiction than those often designated as middle school. However, as a committee member of an Area Wide Book Battle I am also responsible for finding books that will appeal to sixth and seventh graders too. Some young adult books, in my opinion work for all the middle school grades, but there are many that do not.
Therefore, In the Middle Monday Reviews will be a place for me to specifically review middle level books geared for tweens.
In the tradition of the loveable but flawed heroines from Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicholson Books, Kathleen O'Dell's Agnes Parker novels, and Lois Lowry's Anastasia Krupnik books comes Elizabeth Cody Kimmel's Kat Roberts. All Kat wants is to be normal, or at least to look that way to students at her new school. But her mother is a medium, and not the kind that fits in between small and large; Kat's mom is the kind of medium who sees spirits and communicates with them. And, even worse, Kat has just discovered that she can see spirits too. In fact, she seems to be the only one capable of helping a spirit at her school cross over successfully. The question is can she do it without needing to switch schools herself? (Publisher's comments from Powell's Book)
I picked up Suddenly Supernatural: School Spirit by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel because it is a 2010/2011 nominee for Missouri Association of School Library Mark Twain Reader’s Award. This means that teachers, librarians, students and parents felt the book was original and it’s literary value may enrich children’s lives. After reading the book I can see why it was chosen.
I found Kat, the main character, quite relatable and easy to connect with because she is like most seventh grade girls; she wants to fit in and have friends. Unfortunately, Kat has a few things that make fitting in difficult. First, she is relatively a newbie to the school; next, her mother is an “incense burning, Indian-skirt-wearing vegetarian who interacts with dead people;” lastly, ever since Kat turned thirteen, she has started seeing ghosts. Kat is unsure how to deal with her new ability, mainly because she feels that it will cause her be the brunt of jokes and untold other embarrassments from her junior high classmates.
Kat is joined by two other characters, who help make Kat’s adjustment to her ghost seeing ability easier. Kat’s mother is one. I loved the relationship Kat has with her mother. Her mother is very supportive and is quick to listen to Kat when she has a problem and her advice is solid. The other character is Jac, short for Jacqueline. Jac is even newer to school than Kat and she drags around a cello that is almost as big as she is. What I really liked about Jac was she could care less about being part of the popular crowd. Together Kat and Jac share each other’s secrets and a mysterious ghost helps both girls wrestle their inner angsts.
School Spirit is a cute story whose main message is about learning to accept one’s self. It speaks strongly about standing up for what’s rights instead of blindly following what is most popular. It is a perfect story for the tween audience. Kimmel also has three other books in this series, Crossing Over, Unhappy Medium, and her newest release Scaredy Kat.
I have included a video I found where Kimmel talks about her series. I will definitely be reading more from this series.