Monday, August 4, 2014

Chapter Book Review - The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern

How do you find out about great books? That's a question people often ask me, and it's kind of weird for me to answer, really, because so much of my life is steeped in bookish-ness. I keep close tabs on the publishing industry for work, but also because I'm just plain nerdy, and I can't help myself. Along the way I've picked up a number of fantastic blogs and websites that I follow (someday I will write a detailed post of all of them, honest), as well as trade publications. And when I start to see the same title cropping up in all my usual haunts, well then, I feel sure it's a sign from above pointing me toward that particular book.

'Cause that's how fate works, right?

Today's title is one that I first heard about through the goddess of all kidlit bloggers, Betsy Bird, when her blog Fuse #8 premiered the trailer for The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern. I mean, that book trailer -- I defy anyone to watch that sucker and *not* want to start reading the book immediately. So I waited somewhat impatiently for the book to arrive at my library and then downed it in one sitting. And subsequently could not stop thinking about the book, it's that good. Definitely a sleeper hit of the year for me.

It's the voice of Maggie, the main character, that really stuck with me. Maggie's entirely original, unlike anyone else you're liable to run across in chapter books. She's self-assured and knows what she wants -- to be the president of the US, a Wall Street tycoon (starting with her first share of Coca-Cola stock) and also to fix her dad. Because the thing is, Maggie's dad's legs started to fall asleep a while back, and now they're all the way asleep. And some other stuff is happening too, like Maggie's mom getting a job at a hotel, Maggie's sort-of long-lost grandmother coming to visit, and Maggie's sister kissing a boy on the couch. Oh, and that guy Clyde who Maggie can't get out of her head. Wow, is middle school a crazy time -- you can understand why a girl gets upset when her Halloween candy stash runs low.

The Meaning of Maggie is Sovern's debut, but you can tell by the end of the first chapter that this author has some serious chops as far as novel-writing goes. She keeps the pace moving along, and strikes a nice balance between emotion and hilarity. Maggie's family is dealing with some tough stuff -- we find out about halfway through that her dad has MS, and it's getting progressively worse -- and kids who have been in a similar situation will find much to relate to here. But this is a great title for all kids, all people really, to read, in order to build empathy and help people understand what it's like to love someone with a disability. Maggie plainly adores her dad, and the toll his disease takes on her whole family is tough. But through it all, the family sticks together, and their bond just continues to grow.

Like Wonder and Mockingbird, The Meaning of Maggie is a novel that can start conversations: about ability, difference, emotions and the meaning of "normal". Read this smart, sassy, very real novel now, then share it with every kid you know -- Maggie's the kind of girl who needs all the readers she can get.

The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern, published by Chronicle Books
Ages 9-12
Source: Library
Sample: "I'm feeling about a million things at this moment. And I guess the only thing I'm not feeling now is hungry because I just ate that entire Little Debbie even though I double swore to myself that I'd wait until Dad woke up to share it. But I couldn't help it. I'm tired. I slept on a floor last night. In a hospital waiting room. Next to my sister who kicked the dickens out of me with her perfect legs all night long."

1 comment:

Amy said...

So glad to hear you liked this! I, too, have seen it all over the place but haven't read it yet. Also, I am so in love with the cover!