Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Summary: This collection of ten short stories follows various middle school kids on their way home from school. These are kids who are dealing with a lot: sickle cell anemia, parents with cancer, a brother in prison, a grandfather with dementia. But those details are slipped casually into the main action of the story, which generally centers on the more mundane parts of life. Hanging out with friends, getting up the nerve to tell a girl you like her. Teasing your best friend about his boogers, trying to avoid a new dog in the neighborhood. The characters make cameo appearances in each other’s stories, which may send readers back to the beginning once they’ve met everyone. Each story also contains a reference to a school bus falling from the sky. It’s mentioned in the first sentence of the first story and the third from the last sentence of the final story, which concludes: “Canton smiled, knowing a school bus is many things. So is a walk home.” 208 pages; grades 5-8.
Pros: This book seems destined to wind up in the reading curriculum of many a middle school, showing kids what effortlessly amazing writing looks like, and how to create a host of distinctive characters from everyday life in a short amount of space. This is already a National Book Award Finalist, and it’s sure to win more awards next year.
Cons: I’m not a huge fan of the short story format. I always feel like I’m just getting to know the characters when the story ends.