03 July 2009
Can You Get An F In Lunch? and Madame President are the first two books in a series by Nancy Krulik called How I Survived Middle School. My twin daughters, who just finished 6th grade, sped through these books and asked for more so I thought I should read them myself.
The series chronicles the experiences of an 11-year-old girl named Jenny McAfee as she starts 6th grade in a new school. The main conflict is whether Jenny should stay true to the person she was in elementary school or try to act older and look cool like some of the other kids in middle school. This comes about when Jenny returns from sleep-away camp and discovers that her lifelong best friend Addie no longer wants to have anything to do with her. Addie spent the summer hanging out with 7th graders and started the school year as one of the "Pops", or popular kids. Jenny finds her own group of friends by the end of the first book, so one of the themes ends up being Pops versus non-Pops.
These books are a quick read; even C2, my reluctant reader, managed to finish one in a couple of hours. Krulik addresses the common fears that a new middle schooler might have, such as getting lost in a bigger school building and not getting a morning snack like you got in elementary school. The author also comes down on the side of not growing up too quickly, which parents will love.
One thing that annoyed me was the constant mention of middleschoolsurvival.com, which is the website that Jenny turns to whenever she has a problem. It is a real website run by Scholastic, and all the quizzes that Jenny takes in the book are on there. The frequent references broke the flow of the story for me ("I wonder if Addie is really my friend? I'll go take a quiz and find out!") My daughter C1 even asked me why the website existed. I'm sure some kids who don't like reading that much will think the connection to the internet is cool, but an avid reader may find it a nuisance.
All in all, I believe this series makes good summer reading for girls during the summer before 6th grade, especially if they will be going to a different school. It will help them prepare for the changes they will encounter while presenting characters they can care about.