So while I wait for my reserved books to come in, hopefully today, I picked up the book Twerp by Mark Goldblatt from the new fiction table. It turned out to be an awesome middle school book.
Julian is a gifted student who shows a real talent for writing. He has a tight group of friends from his block in New York and, as good boys will do, they make some bad decisions. One of the decisions gets them suspended from school for a week and the story revolves around that incident even though we don't get the details until the very end.
Julian's English teacher makes a deal with him. He allows him an alternative writing assignment instead of doing the Shakespeare thing like everyone else in class. The assignment turns into a look at life through a 6th grade boy's eyes. It is full of the things that boys go through from making bad decisions to impress their friends, to first girlfriends and dates, and the all important being the fastest kid in school.
Julian has a gift for writing and his teacher Mr. Selkirk recognizes it. By assigning the journal, he allows Julian to look at his life and examine his values. In the end, when the assault on another student is revealed, the reader is left hopeful that Julian has discovered what it is that is important to him.
Although the book is set in 1969, it could be anytime. The trials of a 6th grade boy trying to make his way and do the right thing while maintaining his cool easily transcend the decades. If I were teaching middle school I would definitely be recommending this book to my boys in the hopes that it might help them sort out some of the feelings they are going through at such a tough age.