A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Here in the Real World is an appealing, insightful middle grade tale of two quirky, relatable 11-year-olds, written by Sara Pennypacker (Pax). It's a summer of discovery (self- and otherwise) as bookish Ware meets determined, scrappy Jolene in the parking lot of a ruined church. Knightly ideals meet real-life troubles, and Ware is fascinated with the idea of baptism and how it might turn him into a kid his go-getter parents would actually understand. As the story unfolds, we learn a lot about chivalry, history, migrating birds, ecosystems, gardening -- and fine points of grammar. There's some trauma and tragedy involved -- the tween who was abandoned by her mom at 5 now lives with a hard-drinking aunt, and scrounges to keep them alive. Tweens occasionally say "crap" and obsess over the uses ancient civilizations found for urine. There are strong messages of friendship, kindness, empathy, teamwork, being who you are, and accepting others as they are.
What's the story?
It's the start of the summer in Florida. Eleven-year-old Ware's parents are working double shifts all summer so that they can buy their house, and he's looking forward to a quiet time with his grandmother where he can read his books about knights in peace. But HERE IN THE REAL WORLD, things can go awry: His grandmother has a fall and breaks both hips, and Ware's soon back home being forced into a daily program of Meaningful Social Interaction and other normal-kid activities. Just like every year. Only this year, he decides he's had enough, ditches the regimentation, and ducks behind a tree -- where he discovers a girl his age trying to grow papaya plants in the parking lot of a ruined church. Things get interesting fast, and opportunities to practice chivalry crop up frequently.
Is it any good?
Sara Pennypacker's funny, relatable tale of two misfit tweens and their transformative summer on a ruined church property in Florida will resonate with lots of young readers. Especially those with strong views about how things ought to be who are constantly being told that Here in the Real World things don't work that way. Very little in this tale goes exactly as the characters would wish, but it goes to some profoundly satisfying places and makes some great connections.
"'No, Jolene. We won't let it happen. You won't lose this garden.'
"'What are you talking about?'
"What was he talking about?
"Ware suddenly saw page eleven in his report. Number twelve seemed to be lit up. Thou shalt always be the champion of the Right and the Good, against Injustice.
"That's what he was talking about.
"This was Injustice, all right. He needed to be a champion of the Right and the Good.
"This was, in fact, the purpose that would drive his life, he was suddenly certain.
"He pulled himself up tall. 'I won't let it happen, Jolene. I will save your garden.'
"Jolene snorted. 'How are you going to do that?'
"'I don't know yet. But I will. You won't lose your garden. I pledge.'
"'Promise. I promise.'"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about tales like Here in the Real World, in which a summertime friendship has lots of life-changing effects for the kids involved and the people around them. Why do you think summertime stories -- which often involve people being out of their normal routine -- are so popular? What other examples have you read or watched?
What do you know about sandhill cranes and their long yearly migrations? Now that you've read Here in the Real World and heard about them from Ashley, do you want to learn more?
Ware sometimes struggles with how to make the principles of medieval knighthood work in today's world. Do you ever think that some of today's rules and customs may have been great in the past, but now it's time for something different?
- Author: Sara Pennypacker
- Genre: Friendship
- Topics: Activism, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: February 4, 2020
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: October 30, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love stories of friendship and family
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