Reviews for Planet Middle School


Booklist Reviews 2011 September #2
The title of this slim novel (written in free-verse poems) could have been Planet Puberty. Each entry captures universal moments of confusion, anger, guilt, and fun through the viewpoint of 12-year-old African American Joy as things change with her friends, family, and body. She gets her period, tries to hide the growth on her chest, and notices cute guys, especially her classmate Santiago, who doesn't seem to notice her, except when she trips and falls down in her new heels and short skirt. At home, Dad is proud when she makes the basketball team, and after he rejects her brother, Caden, for being into art instead of sports, it takes Joy a while to realize that her message to Caden is for herself, too: Stop trying to be someone you're not. The core of the story is her awkward relationships with her longtime best friends, especially Jake: suddenly things are not as relaxed as they were, and she behaves badly. This will spark discussion in the middle-school classroom. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
Upon starting middle school, twelve-year-old Joy feels self-conscious about being thought of as a tomboy. She and her best friend are also growing apart. Through breezy prose poems Grimes explores the tension between individuality and gender-role conformity and takes on concerns such as changing friendships and the shift in boy/girl relationships. Her realistic novel has solid middle-school appeal and avoids preaching. Copyright 2012 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #5
Twelve-year-old Joy has always been athletic, and she can hold her own in any neighborhood basketball game playing against boys her age, including her longtime friend, Jake. But once she starts middle school, she feels self-conscious about being thought of as a tomboy. Also, she and her best friend KeeLee are growing apart: suddenly, KeeLee is wearing frilly dresses and showing an interest in boys. Joy feels betrayed by the change in KeeLee until she herself starts noticing boys, specifically gorgeous Santiago with his perfect curly brown hair. He barely acknowledges her existence, even when she takes to wearing makeup and skirts. But the boys she plays basketball with do notice the change in her and begin to treat her differently on the court. In a parallel subplot, Joy's artistic younger brother, Caden, asks her to teach him some basketball moves so he can get more attention from their sports-loving father. Through breezy prose poems Grimes explores the tension between individuality and gender-role conformity and takes on young adolescent concerns such as changing friendships, the shift in boy/girl relationships, and first crushes. Her realistic novel has solid middle-school appeal and avoids preaching. In a refreshing twist, Santiago never really notices Joy, and after a while, it doesn't much matter to her. What does matter are her friendships with KeeLee and Jake, and the people in her life who know the real Joy. kathleen t. horning Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 August #1

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)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2012 January/February
Nikki Grimes has done it again! She now gives us Joylin Johnson who is on the verge of becoming a teenager and trying to figure out how and when life changed, and Grimes hits the nail right on the head. 12-year-old Joylin has suddenly become interested in 'girly' stuff, all because of Santiago, a cool guy who makes her heart flutter. All the drama of that age is brought back as Joylin shops for clothes to catch Santiago's eye; becomes speechless when there's a chance to talk with him; and is devestated when she sees him with another girl. We learn a lot about Joylin, but much more about ourselves. Readers will think of their own family and group dynamics. The vocabulary is rich, the characters well-drawn, and the scenes realistic. This is a serious but not too serious look at growing up from a master poet. Leslie Greaves Radloff, The Heights Community School, St. Paul (Minnesota) Public Schools. RECOMMENDED ¬ 2011 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 December

Gr 5-8--Joylin, 12, has always been comfortable in her own skin. Then strange things start to happen. She begins to notice boys; her forever friend and b-ball buddy, Jake, begins to treat her differently on the court; and Joylin and her best girlfriend, Kaylee, develop different interests. Joylin feels like an "alien" who finds herself in "Planet Middle School" by mistake, "searching for that spaceship/that's gonna take me home." She tries to morph from a tomboy in baggy jeans and an old T-shirt into someone more feminine, trying lipstick, heels, and a skirt, each with disastrous results. That she emerges from these oh-so-embarrassing episodes effectively provides reassurance and hope. Joylin's voice is revealed in spare, well-paced verse. Her recognizable emotions and actions become tangible as she learns that appearances are not always what they seem; that staying true to one's self is ultimately the most successful way to grow and mature. Young and adult characters are plausible, likable, and supportive of one another. For example, when Joylin realizes that the object of her infatuation does not reciprocate, her mother holds her "close/long enough for me to leave/a puddle on her shoulder,/long enough for me to feel/some of the hurt drain away." The story is by turns touching and laugh-out-loud funny, and readers will appreciate the time they spend with Joylin, her family, and her friends as they live, grow, and learn as individuals and together.--Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at Washington DC Public Library

[Page 118]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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VOYA Reviews 2011 October
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.--Nancy Wallace. 3Q 3P M J Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

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