The Meaning of Maggie Book Poster Image

The Meaning of Maggie



Girl comes to terms with dad's illness in relatable tale.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers will learn about multiple sclerosis and the impact it can have on the surrounding family as well as the patient.

Positive messages

Maggie's family believes in "pulling  yourself up by your bootstraps." They deal daily with a tragic situation with courage and humor, and above all, love.

Positive role models

Maggie's as engaging an 11-year old as you're ever likely to meet. She plans to become President of the United States. Meanwhile, she enjoys learning and is an A student, winner of several awards.  Although she can be stubborn and opinionated, she's also thoroughly delightful. She adores sweet desserts and loves her family. Well, all except for her older sister, Tiffany, with whom she has to share a room.

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Maggie's parents give her one share of Coca-Cola stock as a gift.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The adults smoke and have an occasional cocktail.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Meaning of Maggie is inspired in part by the author's experience living with a father who had multiple sclerosis. Written with warmth and humor, the novel -- written as 11-year old Maggie's memoir of the past year of her life -- has the unmistakable ring of authenticity. It centers on a working-class family's brave attempts to cope with an incurable neuromuscular disease and shield Maggie from its devastating reality. A portion of the proceeds of the sale of The Meaning of Maggie will be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.


What's the story?

Maggie's a super achiever, often student of the month and champion of last year's school science fair. But now her super-cool dad is in a wheelchair, has had to leave his job, and her mom has had to go to work. But Maggie doesn't understand why, and no one will explain. When she discovers that her father has multiple sclerosis, she naively resolves to "fix it." On her 12th birthday, her dad's rushed to the hospital. As painful as this is, she finally accepts the knowledge that the problem's not going to go away and that she and her family will face it bravely.

Is it any good?


In THE MEANING OF MAGGIE, author Megan Jean Sovern has taken a difficult topic and made it accessible. Told from Maggie's point of view in the guise of a memoir of her past year, the story's filled with warmth, humor, and a loving, caring family. It will engage readers who appreciate a spunky, temperamental protagonist, and will resonate especially those who've experienced a disability within their family and must confront it with courage.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can discuss how a family member's disability has an impact on the entire family. Has anyone in your family come down with an illness and become disabled? How did it make you feel? 

  • Using media resources, investigate how scientists have discovered a way to stop the spread of a specific disease or even to cure it. How did they conduct research and experiments? How long did the process take? What would you like to find a cure for?

  • Start to keep a journal. Include your thoughts about friends, school, the place where you live, your own triumphs and disasters and your wishes for the year(s) ahead.

Book details

Author:Megan Jean Severn
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Topics:Brothers and sisters, Great girl role models
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Chronicle Books
Publication date:March 16, 2014
Number of pages:224
Available on:Nook, Hardback, Kindle

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Adult Written bychademe94 June 12, 2014

Surprised CommonSenseMedia said this was ok for 9 yr olds.

I haven't actually read this book, but my daughter started it and pointed out a few things that made us decide it wasn't appropriate for her. It may not sound like much to some people, but for my very sheltered 10 yr. old daughter she didn't know what they were talking about when the 11 year old says her sister (who is boy crazy) and her boyfriend were on the couch sleeping together. The 11-year-old thought they were having sex on the couch, but they weren't. The 11 year old also mentions making cocktails and using the bad stuff. This isn't the stuff a normal 11 year old should be dealing with, and not something I want my daughter reading about.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old October 7, 2014

Oh my gosh, best book ever!

This is an amazing book for tweens. It mad me laugh and cry. It was an intense story though, in an emotional way, and one of Maggie's sisters is found on the couch sleeping with a boy. This book was so good but not for anyone under ten or eleven.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much sex
Educator and Parent Written byMrs A October 6, 2015

What Maggie Meant to Me

The Meaning of Maggie is a great novel. Full of heart, drama, and humor, this story is fictionalized memoir of an eleven year old girl struggling with middle school, being the middle child and helping her family in the middle of big changes because of the dad's illness. The author uses some really cool storytelling techniques like a non-linear plot and footnotes. In fact, because of the footnotes, I'd recommend reading this book on an e-reader if you can. It speeds up the process of checking the footnote, especially for kids. By far the most compelling reason to read this book is the character of Maggie. She's smart, funny, kind and loving. She LOVES to learn. As a kid growing up with a sick mom, I could totally relate to Maggie's fear of her father's illness. As far as inappropriate messages in the book, I'd definitely agree there were a few things that I might leave out if I was reading this book aloud to my class, which is why I said 12 and up. But if you read the book before your kids ---as all teacher do with read alouds, you can just stick a post-it note on the pages that have the references you don't want to include. Here's what they are: *Maggie's parents drink Rum and Cokes. Maggie's dad sometimes asks her to bring him a drink. Maggie refers to the rum as "bad stuff"----hey, I told you she's smart. *Maggie's dad's photo album has a picture of a "funny looking plant". No direct reference. *Maggie's parents have friends over. They smell funny in the morning. *Maggie's sister is found sleeping on the couch with her boyfriend. They are literally sleeping. No reference to sexual activity. However, there's lots of talk about making out. Ewwww. *Maggie's dad makes a joke about wanting medical marijuana to his doctor. Sure, there are a few references in the book that some kids won't understand. But as a whole, The Meaning of Maggie is by far my favorite of all the books nominated for the Maine Student Book Award this year. Maggie stole my heart----because she's ME. The little girl growing up in the late 80s who loved to learn, who loved to eat, who had a parent with a really scary illness----it reads like my own life story. I think The Meaning of Maggie will steal your heart---and be careful because she will also steal your Zebra Cakes.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models