Fourth graders Lucy and Becky have planned to kiss Tom and Henry behind the ball shed at recess all year. They think the kiss will launch them into popular girl status at school. Everything goes according to plan, Tom is even so sweet as to give Lucy a ring. That very same night, Lucy's mom goes into labor and Lucy loses her ring. Lucy's little sister, Molly is also born with Downs Syndrome and her parents begin to adjust to the news. Becky calls to check in on Lucy since she missed school, but she has horrible news for her. Becky says that Tom doesn't really like her and the other kids at school have been teasing her. Becky promises that she will call her every night to check in with her, but they can't speak or hangout at school. Becky makes Lucy think she is looking out for her, but she really doesn't behave very nice to her at school. Lucy is left to sit at the only empty seats with the least popular kids. She even begins to work with Sam, a boy who is being bullied too, on a diorama project for class learning about wolf packs. Vrabel uses wolves to illustrate how sometimes there are alphas, sometimes there are scapegoats and how these two things relate to bullying in middle school.
I received a review copy from Sky Pony Press for consideration for the 2014 Cybils award in Middle Grade fiction.
Kate Walden Directs Night of the Zombie Chickens by Julie Mata
Kate loves to make movies, one day she hopes to be a film director. Her newest project is called Night of the Zombie Chickens, starring her best friend Alyssa. Living on a free range chicken farm, Kate has the luxury of having chickens available for filming, now all she needs is to figure out an epic final scene. Ever since Kate moved, Alyssa has seemed distant and less interested in the project as she once was. Alyssa has also been hanging out with Lydia, the most popular girl in school. At first Alyssa says its because both of their parents are divorced, but when Alyssa starts taking part in some of the teasing that Lydia and her crowd direct toward her, Kate knows that she doesn't want to be friends anymore. Kate is left to sit at "the loser's table" with Margrett and Olivia, which doesn't turn out to be as bad as she thought. Kate thinks that Alyssa needs to see just what she has put her through, so she comes up with just the right idea. Everything goes as planned, but even the best laid plans aren't always the right thing. Kate finds herself in the position of having to rewrite everything and fix her mistakes. Mata gives you the feel of middle grade girls, especially when Alyssa and Lydia begin to hang out. It's actually sad to experience the teasing that the girls and other students put Kate through. Yet, I also felt disappointed that she chose to try and exact revenge on Alyssa, even though she kind of deserved it.
I received a review copy from Disney/Hachette Book Group for consideration for the 2014 Cybils award in Middle Grade fiction.