BOOKS: Photo novel more than a quick readAt first glance, “Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick” would appear to be a quick read. However, the collages present multiple subplots that allow room for speculation and insight.
By: Jean Patrick, Republic Book Columnist
At first glance, “Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick” would appear to be a quick read. However, the collages present multiple subplots that allow room for speculation and insight.
If you like this creative form of storytelling, take a look at Holm’s previous book, “Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf.”
Jennifer Holm seems to be able to do it. She’s the author of three Newbery Honor Books and the creator of the hilarious Baby Mouse series.
She also writes about middle school.
But “Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick” is a unique novel. It’s told with “stuff.” Each page is a photo collage of the bits and pieces of Ginny’s life — her to-do lists, the sticky notes from her mom, lunch menus and even a pizza box.
Using these pieces of ephemera, Holm tells the story of Ginny’s eighth-grade year.
These visual cues show the beginning of a great school year — a new house (packing boxes), an awesome English teacher (lots of free-verse poems), and a place on the cheer squad (the announcement).
But then the changes begin. A wastebasket with her mom’s positive pregnancy test.
A scribble to her best friend that her mom quit being a lawyer to stay home. A poem revealing that her stepdad got laid off the week before Christmas.
Ginny’s New Year’s to-do list has an odd addition: Avoid nachos. More clues are revealed with “tummy tablet” wrappers, a bathroom scale and an emergency room report.
Things go from bad to worse. Medical bills, a court summons for her older brother. A realtor’s sign.
But a note from her mom on the refrigerator about a job-hunting trip to California gives hope for the future.
Although parts of the book seem a little contrived (her little brother’s handwriting doesn’t look authentic; her book report has a heavyhanded theme of making lemonade), this book stimulates readers to create Ginny’s story in their own minds.
“Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick: Ginny Davis’s Year in Stuff.” By Jennifer L. Holm. Illustrated by Elicia Castaldi. Random House, 2012. 128 pp.