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“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success.”
Summary: Meet Maggie Mayfield (11), future President of the United States. Presidents write memoirs, and Maggie is writing hers. This is the perfect year to begin! A lot has happened this past year: she's in middle school and her sisters are a lot more annoying than they used to be. Her dad quit his job because his legs fell asleep and mom works full time. Since no one will tell her why her dad can't walk anymore, she's determined to find out for herself and fix it. Maggie's story starts in the now and then takes us back one year. It is a journal style of writing.
Type of Reading: family reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 12 and Up; read youself: 10 and Up
Interest Level: 12 and Up
Reading Level: 4.3
Adult Reader Reaction: An enjoyable read. Maggie is a lovable character whose personality permeates every word you read. Maggie's asides (written as footnotes) are quirky and funny, adding to the depth of your relationship with her. Her dad's multiple sclerosis is a critical part of the plot, and it is presented honestly, with grace, realism, and humor. Her parents outlook over the situation shouldn't be diminished when you're talking about this book.
Pros: Maggie's voice and the authenticity of her feelings are the heart of this story. A great read-aloud choice.
Cons: The story ends hopefully; readers who want everything tied up neatly in a book won't get that here. There are a few loose ends.
References to sex and scenes describing alcohol may not be appropriate for some audiences. Maggie makes it clear there is no Santa Claus or Easter bunny. That may offend some readers.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. For teens dealing with lots of change in their life, Maggie can be a good friend.
Educational Themes: Family dynamics are a key part of the story, and you can draw on various scenes to talk about them: stay-at-home dad and his impact on daily life; mom works as a maid; sister relationships, etc. Maggie herself is dealing with a lot, and her revelations can also start conversations: middle school life, change, (potential) loss of parent. With so much to talk about, The Meaning of Maggie is a great choice for a parent-child book club.
Notes: This publisher sent a copy of this book as part of the 2014 Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Award (Cybils) process. This review is not intended to represent the opinions of the Cybils. The book will be donated to a reader in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - middle grade, family, life lessons
Date(s) Reviewed: December 2015
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.