Marley is saving money to go to the upcoming Star Trek convention, and it isn't that he is superstitious, exactly, but he sometimes carries particular Star Trek action figures in his pocket, depending on the kind of luck he needs in a given day. Starting 7th grade isn't looking great, especially since his former best friend, Stanford, suddenly became Mr. Popular Athlete. Having Digger Ronster lurking around to bully him at every opportunity doesn't help. Is it some sort of requirement to be miserable all through middle school? When it turns out that Marley is a pretty fast runner, does it mean he should use his talent as a ticket to popularity?
I'm very fond of this series, and particularly of this book. Even if a reader isn't a Star Trek fan, the book works for anyone who's ever felt shoved to the side, unsure about how to find a place to fit. Readers who are Star Trek fans will quite appreciate Marley's explanation that he can't tell anyone why he doesn't have his homework - "it's the Kobayashi Maru!"
Other books in this series:
Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time
Millicent Min, Girl Genius
So Totally Emily Ebers
Millicent Min, Girl Genius: I adore this book. Millicent is young, brilliant, and lonely. She adores new ideas and learning, and in her first college class this summer (she's eleven), she is excited to finally be with similarly motivated peers. While the professor is like-minded, the other students are not. Forced to tutor Stanford, the basketball-playing family friend, and forced to sign up for volleyball (the worst!), Millicent decides not to confess her grade acceleration to her new friend, Emily. Just once, she wants a friend who isn't put off by all the ways Millicent is different.
Topics & Themes: Academically Gifted, Volleyball, Peer & Family Relationships, Honesty
Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time: Stanford can't wait to go to basketball camp this summer but his failing grade means he has to attend summer school, and worse! - actually read books. His genius older sister is at college, his father has no time for him, and his grandmother is becoming forgetful. His best friend doesn't talk, and one of the kids in his group of friends makes him uncomfortable - what if he found out that Stanford flunked? There's a new girl in town named Emily, and Stanford thinks she's the greatest, except for her friendship with his English tutor, Millie. Millie is the opposite of great. This book is not as funny as Warp Speed, but it's well-written and it's a good story.
Topics and Themes: Basketball, Popularity, Responsibility/Studying, Family Relationships
So Totally Emily Ebers - Lisa Yee has an amazing talent for incorporating details into her books that other writers miss - crossing ribbons over the bulletin board to hold your photos, for example. I love how each of the four protagonists are such different people, but the details make each one believable. Emily is slightly frustrating as an unreliable narrator in this book, and this particular book title may not be as appealing off the shelf since the language is outdated, but anyone who loves the painfully sweet authenticity of middle school realistic fiction will feel lucky to find (and re-read) this series.
Topics & Themes: Unreliable father, Dealing with Weight, New Girl in School, Optimism
The best discussion questions, of course, are generated by and contemplated by readers. These questions are designed to avoid major spoilers about the book, and to provide a starting point for teachers, parents, and student reading groups.
**Questions coming soon**
If you liked this book, you might also like . . .