I was ready for the first day of middle school to be bad, but it's worse than I imagined. My best friend Becca missed the bus; I can't find my way around the school; I still haven't found Becca; I don't see any of my friends; and every time the bell rings, I have to worry about getting to the next class on time.
The phys. ed. teacher sounds like a prison guard. Math class is even worse. I've been sent to the principal's office...and it's not even my fault. No wonder they call it middle school. You're stuck in the middle between little kid and grown-up, just trying to make your way out of the confusion. But some kids actually look happy here. Does that mean there's a chance things will get better?
About the Author
Lou Kassem has written more than a dozen books for young people. She lives in Southwestern Virginia.
Read an Excerpt
This is my first funeral. I'm not going to any more. Except my own.
They're -doing everything wrong...the music, the flowers, the long, solemn faces. Gram would hate it and it's her funeral.
I wish they'd asked me what Gram wanted. You'd think her own daughters would know better.
Gram is -- was -- my father's mother. She was a very "up" person. Instead of playing "Rock of Ages" they should be playing "I've Got a Home in Gloryland." Gram liked music with a beat to it.
And these flowers! Gram hated cut flowers. I can still hear her saying to me, "Don't pick the flowers, Cindy. Let them bloom where everyone passing by can enjoy them."
I wiggle a little on the hard wooden pew. Mom frowns a warning at me.
The heavy scent of flowers is making me sick, but I sit still again and shut my ears to what is going on. I will remember Gram in my own way...
Tabitha Jane Tallman Cunningham -- Tabby for short -- had hardly ever been sick a day in her whole life. I guess she surprised everyone by dying last Thursday. Gram was full of surprises.
When Gramps was alive he used to laugh and say Gram was like an old tabby cat; if you treated her right, she purred, but if you didn't, watch out for her claws! Personally, I never saw any claws on Gram. All I saw was a little, smiling woman in a denim skirt and blue sneakers, who'd let me be myself for one wonderful week every summer. Not that I didn't have to mind or do my chores! There's lots to do on a dairy farm as big as Belle Meade. But Gram never yammered at me to keep clean, act like a lady, or stop asking questions. She never made fun of my schemes even when sheknew they wouldn't work.
I remember the time when I really wanted to be a boy. Miss Minnie, a mountain herb doctor who was a friend of Gram's, claimed to know a magic spell that would grant my wish. She told me that if I could say the magic words and kiss my elbow under a full moon, I'd turn right into a boy! I practiced and practiced, almost tying myself in knots -- without much success. But I wouldn't give up. Gram never said a word, even when I broke her favorite lamp.
On the last night of the full moon, I went to bed early. I set my alarm for moonrise. It didn't go off, but something woke me about one o'clock. The moon was on the other side of the house so I ran out into the back yard. The rose garden looked so eerie in the moonlight. I said the magic words and tried with all my might to kiss that elbow. I'm not sure what happened next but I know I screamed when I hit the water. I was still sitting in the fish pond watching a goldfish swim around my chest when Gram came flying out in her nightgown.
She looked at me and said, "Well, stand up! Let's see if it worked."
When we saw that it hadn't, she hugged me -- wet pj's and all -- and said, "Be happy to be yourself, Cindy. I like you just the way you are."
That's the kind of person she was. I'm really going to miss her...
Mom nudges me to my feet. The church service is over. Silently we pile into the waiting cars and follow the hearse along the winding road to Mountain View Cemetery.
The family is seated on folding chairs under a big green awning. About half of Albemarle County is standing beside us -- the better half, of course. We are an old Virginia family. Cunninghams have lived in the Piedmont since 1740. Dad's one of the few who left the area and didn't take up farming. He's a research scientist for K.D.L. Laboratories. Some folks think he shouldn't have gone, since he was the only son. Gram and Gramps didn't feel that way. Gram told me so...
Why, is my head running on like this?...There's Miss Minnie in her floppy straw hat and flowered dress. People are giving her funny looks, but I'm glad she came to say goodbye to Gram...
Pastor Percy is waiting for everyone to settle down. He hasn't been Gram's pastor very long. Gram didn't like him as much as she did Pastor Smythe. Pastor Smythe would roll up his sleeves and help Gram in her flower garden. Pastor Percy wouldn't think of doing that. He might get his hands dirty or mess up his wavy brown hair. Gram said he had his hair styled at her beauty shop! I heard her call him Prissy Percy once...
Pastor Percy adjusts his robe, smooths his hair, and clears his throat.
Everyone gets quiet.
A nosy yellow jacket circles Pastor Percy's head as he begins. "For our last farewell to our good friend Tabitha Cunningham I will read her favorite psalm, Psalm 121." He pauses and brushes away the annoying yellow jacket. "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help (swipe). My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved (harder swipe). He that keepeth thee will not slumber..."
Miss Minnie is mouthing something and waving to get Pastor Percy's attention but he ignores her and continues. So does the yellow jacket.
"The sun shall not smite thee by day..." (swat! swat!)
I feel a giggle building up and press my lips shut to keep it inside.
Pastor Percy finishes the psalm and begins talking about Gram and Heaven.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I think that Jr high or middle school is just as hard as it is for the young lady in the story. The book had a lot of similarities to my life when I entered middle school. I think that she was not to far off about her ideals of middle school. I think that it is a really funny book but it does relate to my life and that is a little wierd. I had a very fun time reading this book. I didn't have as much trouble starting middle school as she did but it was very hard to begin. I wasn't surprised that she had more troble adjusting to middle school because I did too. I really liked reading this book and I would read it again and agian. I really enjoyed the part of the book when Cindy first had to take a shower after PE. Students having to run around in a huge shower room together naked as jay birds is many elementary kids 'worst nightmare'. My gym teacher has really good pointers, www.bganssle.com/tsshowers.html, for parents and kids who share this worry. Kids who feel awkward about their first showers at school, just be like Cindy in the book and give it a try. Soon the discomfort will pass. I disagree with Tracy's view that schools should change the rules for gym and showers. Nearly all the parents who took part in Tracy's poll, misterpoll.com/1335548515.html, agreed that school showers are a good idea, and that kids should shower without a bathing suit after PE unless thay have a note from a doctor with a valid excuse. The poll results are from parents, who should care about their own kids and want whats best for them.
I think 'Middle School Blues' is a great book. I'm in sixth grade and reading this book was like reading a guide book. It's an easy book to relate with. The showers in gym and the hormonal rides are all too real! Like Cindy, I do not think showering at school is a good policy for middle school. I can't understand why so many people and polls, such as www.misterpoll.com/1335548515.html, support them. People who encourage or support these forced shower policies are helping to violate student's right of privacy. More parents need to protest the lack of modesty some schools require of us kids in PE! Mz. Kassem, through Cindy, explains middle school life better than anyone else. Cindy goes through real life issues and reading about them, seeing how she deals with them, helps me work through simalar struggles.
'Middle School Blues' is a really good book. I'm finishing eighth grade (middle schools in our state are from grades 6 through 8) and this book is really good story about how middle school really is. I remember leaving elementary school and starting Middle school for the first time and wish I had read 'Middle School Blues' before hand. Reading this book, kids realize middle school is a huge, huge change and its 100 percent OK to be nervous and confused for the first week or so. Kids like Cindy and I need to be reassured that we will find all our classes, we'll remember their locker combinations and that we all will eventually get over the initial shock of having to take a shower after PE. The chapter in the beginning of the book on Cindy's first day of PE was all to real to me! Like Cindy, our school requires showers. Also just like Cindy's school, our girl locker room just has one huge communal shower room. 'Middle School Blues' handles this topic very well. Like Cindy and her friends, I and most of the girls in my class were quite uncomfortable with the idea of showering in public at school. Most new sixth graders in my school are like Cindy in the book, in that no one has ever seen them bathe since they were 4 or so years old! But as my Gym teacher Mrs. Mannering told our class on the first day, showering is a part of hygiene. And hygeine is part of physical education. And she says the school system policy is there is no better time to teach it than in real situations, such as at the end of school PE class. It is awkward to have to shower in front of everyone, but you do get use to it. You have to understand that almost all the girls feel the exact same as you, and you have nothing to worry about. After a few weeks, most students who did not like the idea of taking a shower after class usually convert to liking a shower and even demanding a shower after class. 'Middle School Blues' really teaches us about Middle School and Middle School helps teach us about life. I think elementary schools should have all kids read this book prior to entering middle school. Amy 8th grade Pinellas Park, FL