Things at Harper’s house are different since her Daddy drove away. There had been fighting and he had been drinking too much and this time, after he drove away, he never came back home again. It’s quieter now. There’s no shouting. But Harper’s mom is having a hard time paying the bills and paying the rent. One day, Harper returns from school and sees that all of their belongings are sitting in their front yard. The landlord has kicked the family out. With nothing but the necessities that will fit in their car the family heads to a motel for shelter and to figure out what to do next. Harper’s dreams of finally having her poetry noticed at her school’s annual poetry contest are dashed when the “what to do next” means Harper babysitting her little brother instead of going to school.
Spending her days at the motel with Hem, her little brother, Harper slowly begins to meet the other people that are also living in the motel or in a tent city in the woods behind the motel. What do they have in common? Homelessness. This ragtag group, united as they face common enemies (poverty, unemployment, illness, homelessness) turns out to be the rock Harper and her family have been looking for. You can make a home…wherever your friends and family are, even if that home is in a motel, a shelter or a tent.
Harper is smart and self-reliant. She has a good head on her shoulders. She thinks about her family’s problems a lot, but not in a way that is whiney or all doom and gloom. She thinks about the problems so that she can problem solve. She comes up with ideas and strategies to make their situation better. This makes her a great team player within her family. Author: Ann Haywood Leal
“Emma-Jean Lazarus knew very well that the seventh-grade boys at William Gladstone Middle School behaved like animals at times. They threw fruit in the cafeteria and stampeded through the hallways. They chased balls on the blacktop and laughed in a howling manner when Mr. Petrowsky discussed a certain part of the digestive system in science.”
But Emma-Jean doesn’t really have to care about the boys and their mysterious behaviors, she’s got Colleen, Valerie, Kaitlin and Michelle. But then the Spring Fling comes along - a girls ask boys dance at school. The girls immediately decide to have a sleepover instead since the gross boys are hardly worth their time. But that plan falls apart when Valerie, Kaitlin and Michelle all ask a boy to the dance.
Emma-Jean is again caught in the middle of seventh grade drama when Colleen begins receiving notes from a secret admirer and enlists Emma-Jean to find out who it is. Author: Lauren Tarshis
Jamie’s teacher assigns keeping a diary for three weeks, something Jamie is all over…until she finds out the diary entries will be read by EVERYONE. Even though the author’s name will be anonymous, this clearly violates the Sacred Secrecy of Dairies.
And how can Jamie violate that? She won’t, so she writes a a fake diary to turn in at school, and lucky for us, keeps her real diary too. That’s how we find out Jamie has a new attachment to her nemsis Angeline. Jamie’s dog Stinker has gone and had puppies with Angeline’s dog Stickybuns. According to Jamies, this makes she and Angeline not related exactly, but dog-in-laws. “In-laws are like a side order that you didn’t ask for that comes with the food you DID order.”
Groovy Robinson has a dream and a plan to go with it. She’s a foodie and she loves to cook. She helps out at a local restaurant and hopes to go to culinary (cooking) school someday with an inheritance left to her by her great-grandma.
Much to Groovy’s surprise, her own father is arrested right in front of her. His crime? Taking her inheritance and gambling it away. How did he get caught? Groovy’s exasperated mother turned him in herself. Groovy is hurt, mad and confused. And then there’s Groovy’s friend Frankie. He’s got his own parent problems. He lives with his stepbrother because his mother ran off and only sends him an occasional postcard.
Aren’t the grown-ups supposed to act right? Groovy and Frankie are left with each other to try to figure out how to love these grown-ups – these parents – that are far from perfect. A really powerful story of two real families with real problems and two friends that help each other learn to forgive. Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice
The kids at school think Emma-Jean is weird. Emma Jean thinks the kids at school are weird. The other kids are overly emotional and unpredictable and a lot of the time, what they do just doesn’t make sense to Emma-Jean! Sometimes, the kids are mean to each other on purpose. Sometimes, the kids don’t tell the truth about what they think or what they feel. For a practical mind like Emma-Jean, Middle Schoolers are just plain crazy.
At school Emma-Jean studies the kids from afar. She doesn’t really have any friends herself, until the day she comes across a classmate crying in the bathroom and decides to take action against the craziness. Emma-Jean doesn’t really understand the events that have lead up to the tears, but fixing the problem seems easy enough. Beware when things seem easy! Rather than keeping herself detached from the kids at school, Emma-Jean’s actions instead put her right smack in the middle of their emotional mess. The kids have a lot to learn about friendship, including Emma-Jean. Author: Lauren Tarshis