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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Middle School, the Worst Years of My Life, by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts and illustrated by Laura Park, tells the story of Rafe, a kid who sets out to break all the school rules and is disrespectful to teachers and staff. The humorous drawings poke fun at teachers and just about everyone else at Hills Village Middle School. And Rafe suffers bullying at school and at home.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
Like many middle school students, Rafe feels alone, different, and lost. He is just trying to serve his middle school sentence and move on. On his first day, his first encounter with another student is with Miller the Killer, the class bully. Rafe’s plan to try to "keep [his] head down, try to blend in, and don’t get on anyone’s bad side" doesn’t work, and Miller makes him his target. During the school assembly, Rafe gets the idea to systematically break every rule in the Hills Village Middle School Code of Conduct. He and his best and only friend, Leo the Silent, create a reality-show game with points and exciting twists. Rafe’s unusual friendship with Leo will surprise most readers.
Is it any good?
This irreverent story pokes fun at everything about middle school while creating a fresh, indelible character in Rafe. The wonderful cartoon illustrations by Laura Park (ostensibly done by Rafe's friend Leo) will attract Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans, but these detailed drawings also reveal much about Rafe’s character and how he views the world. Teachers and parents might be offended by the harshness and irreverence with which Rafe portrays Hills Village Middle School, but kids who feel as trapped and alone as he does will relate. Rafe sees himself as a geek, but readers will see his other side -- a sweet boy trying to do what's right.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Rafe is trying to break every rule at his school. Rafe seems like a nice kid; what is happening in his life that causes him to be disruptive?
Rafe suffers at the hands of a bully. You might want to talk about how everyone plays a role in bullying.
Rafe is failing school and has a loser for a stepfather. Families can talk about where kids like Rafe find help and support. He talks to Leo the Silent; who else in his life can he talk to?
What alternatives do kids have when they don’t fit in and have no friends? How do you go about making friends at a new school?
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