Meet Marco and Isaac. They’ve been besties for as long as they can remember and now they share one pain in common: both their dads aren’t in their lives as they’d like. Isaac’s dad is attentive but currently struggling with alcoholism. Marco’s dad wishes Marco were more athletic, instead of nerdy. At the start of middle school, both boys decide to help each other reach their goals. For Isaac, it’s getting better at more than just basketball — getting better grades and being more responsible. And for Marco, it’s learning a sport: basketball. Can they reach their goals? And will their friendship survive it?
So many people have told me how hard it is to find middle-grade books for boys. Okay, okay, before you think “how sexist of you!” this is a real issue — one I’ve also experienced in my brief stint as an English tutor. Many boys (far from all) gravitate towards books with boys on the cover, and it makes sense — windows and mirrors and all that. I read a lot of books by women, about women/girls, so for a while I didn’t even pick up middle-grade books about boys. Thankfully, that is changing, thanks to these excellent middle-grade boy books.
Summary: Before the Ever After Before the Ever After is Woodson’s latest Coretta Scott King award winner — and a well-deserved win too. ZJ’s dad is a popular pro American footballer. He has a awesome crew of male friends who…
Wes is your average sixth grader, except his style is fly. He may not win awards for being the best at math, but he will win the Best Dressed award. He also has a great crew of friends with whom he has lived in Kensington Oaks all his life. His parents believe in getting involved with social activism and are always dragging Wes to one protest after another.
Wes is forced to dive in when developers threaten to tear down his neighborhood. The attempt at gentrification begins to divide the community as some members elect to sell their properties while others flat out refuse. Up close and personal with the effects of gentrification, Wes and his friends are moved to use their voices.
Cyrus Olson does not think he’s “brave like that.” He’s not brave like his adoptive firefighter father who was also a star football player in his day. Although he plays football for his school team, he does not enjoy it, and would much rather be doing something else, but he’s afraid to let his dad (and the town that knows him to be an Olson) down. But Cyrus gets some motivation to stand up for himself and his desires when a dog is abandoned at the fire station (just like Cyrus was).
14-year-old David is a quintessential middle child. His sister Bridgette is in college and the family’s academic success story. Mal, his younger brother is on the autism spectrum, although his family prefers not to use the autism label. Mal is almost non-verbal and only says the word “okay.” David has always has a large appetite and an interest in competitive eating, but after he accidentally leaves a $2000 bill on his mother’s credit card, he’s forced to join a pizza eating contest to win the grand prize of $5000.
In between finding his place in the family and trying not to ruin his internal organs by overeating, David also has to navigate the fact that his two oldest friends Cyn and HeyMan might be dating each other. Where does that leave him? As the third musketeer still, or an unwanted third wheel?