Sovern, Megan Jean. The Meaning of Maggie. San Francisco: Chronicle, 2014. ISBN 978-1-4521-1021-9. $16.99. Grades 5 and up.
For Maggie, the eleventh year of her life is filled with love and wonder. Told as one large flashback, Maggie reflects on the year she turns eleven, falls in love, and loses the science fair all while her father is slowly dying. Her “cool” dad is her sidekick on many of her adventures, while her mother is taking a role as the primary breadwinner. As a self-proclaimed next President of the United States-to-be, Maggie is beyond her peers intellectually but is fragile enough to be sheltered from certain things by her mother and older sisters. Maggie’s father, recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, is losing feeling in his limbs. Her father’s favorite, she is determined to get to the bottom of things at whatever cost. This sweet novel is a coming of age story in which a circumstance beyond her control makes Maggie grow up more than she could have expected.
A light read, this sweet story is one that can be incorporated into a student group who may have issues with a disabled or terminally ill parent. Even more, the main character, Maggie, is extremely academically intelligent but lacks the emotional intelligence to deal with her father’s gradual physical decline. Readers will relate to Maggie and her inquisitive nature, sibling rivalry, and natural innocence.
Realistic Fiction Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central Middle School
Northrop, Michael. Surrounded by Sharks. New York: Scholastic, 2014. 978-0-545-61545-7. 208p. $17.99. Gr. 5-8.
Davey feels trapped; he’s stuck sleeping on a cot in a hotel room shared with his parents and younger brother while on a family vacation to an island resort. So, when he awakens early, he decides to slip out to explore the island. Finding a secluded beach posted with a “No Swimming” sign, he relaxes with his favorite book. Tempted by the waves rolling ashore, he decides to walk along the beach. Wading isn’t swimming, he rationalizes. However, as he walks through the waves, Davey wades too far, is captured by a rip current and is swept out to sea. Clinging to an empty water cooler bottle, Davey strategizes about how to return to shore or attract the attention of passersby. Soon, he has a bigger problem—a much bigger problem. He has attracted the attention of several sharks. Meanwhile back on shore, his family, resort officials, fellow vacationers and the police are all engaged in a search for Davey. Will they realize where he is? And if they do, will they reach Davey before the sharks make their move?
Realistic Fiction; Adventure Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg HS/MS
Surrounded by Sharks is more than just a pulse-pounding suspenseful story pitting boy vs. shark. Chapters alternate among several points of view: Davey, Brando (Davey’s younger brother), Drew (a British teen staying at the resort with her family), and the tiger shark stalking Davey. This narrative technique increases the tension and suspense as readers experience Davey’s stress and fear, Brando’s growing worry for his brother, and Drew’s increasing interest in locating Davey. Northrup uses the chapters told from the point of view of the tiger shark not only invoke a sense of danger closing in on Davey, but also to impart knowledge and scientific facts about species. The chapters are short and easily keep the attention of the reader, making this an appealing choice for reluctant readers.