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Project Middle School: Hope: Book 1

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
Project Middle School: Hope: Book 1 Book Poster Image
Relatable tale of girl finding her voice at new school.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

While there’s a bit of STEM information and attention to academics, the real emphasis is on emotional growth and health and navigating the tumultuous start to middle school that so many readers can relate to.

Positive Messages

Friendships change. Try hard because anything is possible. Be true to yourself. Own up to mistakes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hope and her parents have open conversations about how she feels about what’s happening in her classes, and they're supportive of both her academic work and her choices.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Alyssa Milano and Debbie Rigaud’s Project Middle School: Hope, Book 1 deftly covers many of the issues kids face at the start of middle school, and does so while also validating inclusion, ambition, and compassion. There’s a lot of anxiety at the start of (and, let’s be honest, throughout) these years, and this is a judgment-free look at the ways a group of soon-to-be friends faces the challenge of simultaneously of fitting into their school and standing out in their advanced classes. The variety of races, backgrounds, family situations, and academic interests is refreshing, and readers of many backgrounds will see themselves on these pages.

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What's the story?

In PROJECT MIDDLE SCHOOL: HOPE, BOOK 1, young Hope Roberts is smart, driven, funny, compassionate -- and trying to make it through the start of middle school without her best friend at her side. Hope was accepted to the advanced program at JFK Middle, but her best friend Sam wasn’t. Sam has a whole new set of friends, and Hope has to face things alone, figuring out how to deal with the boys in her classes talking over the girls and sidelining them. Hope knows she belongs there academically, but she doesn’t see how she’ll fit in if she keeps sticking her foot in her mouth. When the robotics competition comes around, she has the chance to save the day, if she can only figure out the right way to ask for help.

Is it any good?

The message here -- about navigating new situations, owning up to mistakes, being true to yourself -- starts out a little heavy handed, but the storytelling evens out as the book progresses. There’s a surprising amount packed into Project Middle School: Hope, Book 1: STEM-focused kids of all backgrounds working hard to do well at a new school, old friendships changing and new ones beginning, robots, and rescue dogs. It’s all fast-paced with an eye for the feelings and outlook of young middle schoolers who are overwhelmed by the bigness of a new school and feeling out of sorts themselves. Hope is a bright star to navigate their changing world with humor, honesty, and dog treats.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how girls in the classes get talked over or ignored in Project Middle School: Hope, Book 1. Have you ever seen that happen? How have the teachers, adults, and others responded to the situation?

  • Why do kids feel anxiety about starting middle school? How is it different from elementary school? Have you ever felt worried about making friends at a new school? How did it turn out?

  • What other books about middle school have you read? Do you see yourself in any of the characters?

Book details

Themes & Topics

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