Planet Middle School

Planet Middle School

4.0 7
by Nikki Grimes
     
 

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For twelve years, Joylin Johnson's life has been just fine. A game of basketball with the boys-especially her friend Jake-was all it took to put a smile on her face. Baggy jeans, T-shirt, and hair in a ponytail were easy choices. Then, everything suddenly seemed to change all at once. Her best girl friend is now flirting with her best guy friend. Her clothes seem

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Overview

For twelve years, Joylin Johnson's life has been just fine. A game of basketball with the boys-especially her friend Jake-was all it took to put a smile on her face. Baggy jeans, T-shirt, and hair in a ponytail were easy choices. Then, everything suddenly seemed to change all at once. Her best girl friend is now flirting with her best guy friend. Her clothes seem all wrong. Jake is acting weird, and basketball isn't the same. And worst of all, there is this guy, Santiago, who appears from . . . where? What lengths will Joy go to--and who will she become--to attract his attention?

In short poems that perfectly capture the crazy feelings of adolescence and first crushes, award-winning author Nikki Grimes has crafted a delightful, often hilarious, hearttugging story.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Nancy Wallace
Twelve-year-old Joylin, enjoys hanging out in jeans and T-shirts with her friend, Jake, and playing a rough game of basketball. Then comes the embarrassment of growing up: her first bra, her first period, and Joylin feels as though she has lost her identity. Even the boys are treating her differently. She feels awkward and unsure. When Santiago catches her eye, she decides to do a make-over: makeup, a skirt, pierced ears, and a new hair style. Santiago already has a girl friend, though—one who looks remarkably like the old Joylin. Frustrated and upset, Joylin turns to her old friend, Jake, and finds that he likes her...just the way she is. This brief verse novel provides short snapshots of Joylin's life. Reminiscent of stream of consciousness, it gives the reader the inside track on Joylin's chaotic emotions and experiences: the misery of cramps, falling in her mom's high heels right in front of Santiago, and putting makeup on all wrong. Her feelings swing from raw to poignant. A secondary plot depicts her brother as a creative, artistic student with a sports-obsessed father. Joylin's gentle orchestration of their relationship lends a subtle serious tone to the story. This giddy portrayal of a girl going through puberty may be a real turnoff to older teens, but it will find an audience among younger boy-crazy adolescent girls who can identify with Joylin's conflicting emotions, hopes and dreams. Its length and subject matter will appeal to middle schoolers going through similar experiences. Reviewer: Nancy Wallace
Children's Literature - Marcie Flinchum Atkins
Joylin has always been a tomboy. She loves basketball and spends most of her time with her best guy friend, Jake, and her best girl friend, KeeLee. Then things start to change. She has to start wearing a bra, gets her period, and has zits. And something else starts to change: for the first time in her life, she starts to notice boys and is attracted to them. She trades in her sneakers for heels, and comfortable gym shorts for short skirts. She even gets her ears pierced and tries to wear makeup. They don't feel comfortable, but she wants a particular boy to notice her. Joylin spends her time coaching her artistic brother to be himself instead of trying to be a basketball player like her. Jake is shocked by the changes in her too. It isn't until the boy she likes starts dating another tomboy, and Jake is seriously injured in an accident, that she takes her own advice and learns to be happy with who she is. Grimes' beautiful novel in verse captures details in Joylin's life that will make the reader ponder and laugh out loud. Even with sparse words, Grimes fully paints her characters and makes the reader care about Joylin and her circle of friends. She distills middle school in all of its ups and downs into this stunning novel about personal acceptance. Reviewer: Marcie Flinchum Atkins
Kirkus Reviews

A young tomboy comes of age on and off the basketball court.

In free-flowing free-verse poems, multi–award-winning author and poet Grimes (A Girl Named Mister, 2010, etc.) here explores the riot of hormones and expected gender roles that can make negotiating the preteen years such a challenge. Twelve-year-old Joylin "Jockette" Johnson prefers jeans, T-shirts and one-on-one basketball games with her father or friend Jake to conforming to the more demure, feminine image her mother has of her. Sassy, self-assured Joy enjoys the simple math of her life—"friends / plus family / plus sports"—until she begins to notice "two weird mounds ruining / the perfect flatness / of [her] chest" and gets her first period, which she deems, "the end of life / as I know it." Beset by physical changes, Joy also finds herself witness and prey to unfamiliar behavior; Jake begins to show interest in her friend KeeLee, and Joy herself tries to adopt a more feminine persona to attract the attention of Santiago, a fellow basketballer with "sweet brown curls / bouncing above killer green eyes." Though Grimes' plot development is rather predictable—a life-threatening accident leads Joy to reassess her priorities—her accessible verse and clear themes of self-acceptance and open-mindedness ring true.

A work that should help adolescent readers find the courage and humor to grow into the individuals they already are. (Verse fiction. 9-14)

School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Joylin has always been happy in blue jeans and a t-shirt playing hoops with Jake, her best guy friend. As she turns 13, all of a sudden she begins noticing boys and has to pick out training bras with her mother. Nikki Grimes uses her trademark verse poetry to tell this coming-of-age story (Wendy Lamb Books, 2011) about a young teen who begins to feel like an alien, faces the confusing world of "planet middle school," and tries to figure out exactly who she is. While many have a hard time reading novels in verse, listening to it is an entirely different experience. Poetry is at its best when read aloud, and this novel is no exception. Sisi Aisha Johnson takes Grimes's text and sculpts a very real young girl who is struggling with who she is and who she is becoming. She keeps Joylin's voice just young enough to sound convincing, and deftly handles the secondary characters, such Joylin's concerned mother, her best girlfriend, Jake, and others. Sure to resonate with middle school teens.—Shari Fesko, Southfield Public Library, MI

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781599902845
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
09/13/2011
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
473,032
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.70(d)
Lexile:
680L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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