My Life in the Fish Tank by Barbara Dee

Published by Aladdin (Released September 15)

My Life in the Fish Tank - Kindle edition by Dee, Barbara ...

Summary:  Zinnia (Zinny) has a pretty normal life with her three siblings and two best friends until her brother is involved in a car accident at college.  The hospital staff notices erratic behavior, and Gabriel is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and sent to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation and counseling.  Zinny’s family is thrown into turmoil–her mother takes a leave of absence from her job, her father starts working longer hours, and neither parent is doing much for Zinny or her other brother and sister.  The kids are told to keep Gabriel’s issues “private”.  Zinny finds herself drifting away from her friends and not sure what to tell the caring adults who reach out to her.  Her interest in science attracts the notice of her favorite teacher, who offers Zinny an amazing summer opportunity, but Zinny’s not sure she should be away from her family.  Zinny is finally forced to confront her own emotions and to learn that loving her brother doesn’t preclude taking care of herself.  320 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  As I read this book, it occurred to me that Barbara Dee is becoming kind of a Judy Blume of the 21st century.  Her recent books have taken on the issues of sexual harassment, eating disorders, childhood cancer, and now mental illness, but she does it with a light touch and with characters that middle-grade readers readily identify with.  I always find her books easy to book talk with upper elementary and middle school readers, yet they could also serve as bibliotherapy for kids who have experienced the challenges she writes about.

Cons:  The title made me think I was getting a first-person narration, which I wasn’t.

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