by Barbara Dee
According to Finley and her BFF, Maya, middle school boys can be put into three separate categories: tadpoles, croakers, and frogs. Per their official Life Cycle of Amphibian Boys, while tadpoles are totally not developed yet (read: boys who still love fart jokes and can't have a normal conversation with girls without making fun of them), a frog is the top of the boy food chain--evolved and mature. Sadly, not many boys have reached that elusive frog status at Staunton Middle School.
Finley thought she had everyone pegged, until Zachary Mattison enters the picture. After suddenly leaving the year before, Zachary's surprise reappearance at SMS forces Finley to see him in a new light. And when the official life cycle list falls into the wrong hands, it causes a battle between the boys and girls that turns into an all-out war--one that Finley isn't sure anyone can really win... (Description from Goodreads.com)
I love Barbara Dee's middle grade books. I have fun reading them and as a Librarian I love to recommend them. Let me tell you why:
As a reader, I think that Barbara Dee has an uncanny knack for capturing middle school behavior in a fun and engaging way. The characters are so relatable to both the middle schoolers that I meet now and to how I recall my middle school years. The focus on friendship and smarts make me smile and there's the hint of romance but not in an overwhelming way. Her books are all just FUN to read. And, in this one in particular, there's an awesome School Librarian - so, ummm...yeah. LOVE.
As a Librarian, I find so many themes that I can use to help recommend her books to other readers. In this book, Finley and Maya are struggling to understand the way that the boys in their lives are maturing and how that affects their relationships with them. They use science to help them explain the things they observe. Though the main plot of the book revolves around their "Life Cycle," what I really loved was Finley's relationships with the other people in her life. This is a book that I can confidently hand to readers looking for a friendship book, or a book with stellar parental examples. The way that her mother interacts with not only Finley, but also her friends... so great.
Dee also builds up each of the girls into smart, talented characters who are NOT boy-crazy, just experiencing the normal blossoming interest in dating. These girls truly care about their academic success and their individual hobbies. I loved the way Finley starts to really think about her photography as true art and not just snapping photos of friends. The boys admire the girls in Dee's books for being who they are, not just because they're cute and I wish we had more and more books that we could hand to readers at this age that puts that point forward as the way things should be...
To this fun and engaging middle grade read I grant a GOLD STAR.
Don't forget to check back tomorrow when I have a fun interview with the author, Barbara Dee!
Full disclosure: Review copy received from Publisher