Children’s Book Review: The Things That Surprise You

I enjoy reading children’s books as much as my kids do, in fact, sometimes maybe even more. And my favorite ones are those for middle-grade readers, the audience that I also write for.

Why are books aimed at 12 year olds my favorites? Because they are full of character, heart, and challenges as their protagonists navigate new friendships and new adventures, while also discovering themselves. Often these books are laugh-out-loud funny and achingly poignant at the same time, or so creative that I’m honestly amazed at the completely new world that the author has created. And although I do have a real penchant for fantasies of wizards, dragons and enchanted castles – I find that I’m equally drawn to real-world stories.

I recently joined a new group of children’s book reviewers on Instagram called KidLit Exchange, a group which aims to shine a light on the wonderful world of children’s literature, share books and support literacy & authors. My first title to review for the group is set in the real world and bound to find its way onto many middle school library shelves. Read my review below, and look for the book when it officially publishes on August 22, 2017!

The Things That Surprise You, by Jennifer Maschari, is a complex yet highly accessible middle-grade novel about self-discovery, change, and relationships. Its protagonist is sixth-grader Emily, who loves a fantasy-detective book series called The Unicorn Chronicles, eating pizza at The Slice and crafting clothes for Bean, her dog. And Emily has always shared everything she loves with Hazel, her best friend.

As Emily begins middle school, her friendship with Hazel becomes as tough to navigate as the unfamiliar halls. Hazel joins the field hockey team, making a new group of friends who paint their nails, read Teen Scene and talk about boys. At home, things are changing too. Emily’s parents have divorced and her Dad has moved into a new house with Alice. And Emily’s older sister, Mina, who she and Hazel used to do everything with, has entered a treatment facility for eating disorders. With her life shifting like huge tectonic plates of Earth, Emily’s emotions spin inside her as she struggles with the question: Who is the New Em?  She seeks advice from an infomercial self-help guru and attempts to tackle this question on her own, determined to be the Best New Emily she be.

The strength of this story is Emily’s voice & character; readers know from the beginning she is a girl who is creative, smart, kind and quirky. She’s also a sensitive girl who feels things deeply, an inquisitive one who likes mysteries to solve and she’s funny. She is unique but also highly relatable, not only for how she is feeling but for the changes her life and friendships are undergoing. Even if you don’t have first-hand knowledge of divorce or eating disorders in your family (though many do), chances are you know someone who has. And the ups and downs of family dynamics and sometimes topsy-turvy changes of friendships will likely be familiar ground.

The Things that Surprise You is a novel that speaks to the 12 year old that we’ve all been or that we are now. In all the questions we ask in our heads (from what to wear to what to say and do to who should be our friends) – the biggest question is: Who am I? Perhaps once we stop asking questions or striving to be some perfect version of ourselves, we can allow ourselves to be authentic and comfortable with our ever-changing “me.” Ultimately, that, plus the strength of forgiveness & empathy to heal, are the messages this book left me with at its end. And I also really wanted a Peanut Butter Surprise Waffle (*fake whispers* with M&Ms). 🙂

Review Links:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2085313103

💖📚Book Review: The Things That Surprise You, by Jennifer Maschari, is a complex yet highly accessible middle-grade novel about self-discovery, change, and relationships. Its protagonist is sixth-grader Emily, who loves a fantasy-detective book series called The Unicorn Chronicles, eating pizza at The Slice and crafting clothes for Bean, her dog. And Emily has always shared everything she loves with Hazel, her best friend. As Emily begins middle school, her friendship with Hazel becomes as tough to navigate as the unfamiliar halls. Hazel joins the field hockey team, making a new group of friends who paint their nails, read Teen Scene and talk about boys. At home, things are changing too. Emily’s parents have divorced and her Dad has moved into a new house with Alice. And Emily’s older sister, Mina, who she and Hazel used to do everything with, has entered a treatment facility for eating disorders. With her life shifting like huge tectonic plates of Earth, Emily’s emotions spin inside her as she struggles with the question: Who is the New Em? She seeks advice from an infomercial self-help guru and attempts to tackle this question on her own, determined to be the Best New Emily she be. For my full review, visit: http://spacetodream.org/2017/08/12/childrens-book-review-the-things-that-surprise-you/ http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2085313103/ @kidlitexchange #kidlitexchange #goodreads #bookreview #middlegrade #lovebooks #lovetoread #readwithyourkids

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Stacie Eirich is a writer as well as an avid reader & book reviewer. She holds a Masters Degree in English Studies from Illinois State University. She has published four books of poetry and a children’s novel: Tiger Kingdom & The Book of Destiny. She lives north of New Orleans, and is currently writing her second children’s novel.

Stacie’s Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Stacie-Eirich/e/B01D1QV79W/

https://www.facebook.com/writerstacieeirich

https://www.instagram.com/suzieandjack

https://www.twitter.com/suzieandjack

https://www.soundcloud.com/stacie-eirich

 

Author: seirich

I’m a mother, writer & dreamer living north of New Orleans, La. I love writing, music, theater, travel and my family. I’ve written and published four books of poetry and a children’s novel: Tiger Kingdom & The Book of Destiny. I’m now working on a second children’s novel.

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