Back to School

Hi Mixed-Up Filers!

Hope everybody is doing well since my last post around five weeks ago.

Again, I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t it a little soon for you to be posting, Jonathan? And the answer to that, is yes. Yes, it is. But there’s a reason for it. You see, at the last MUF staff-meeting, where my function is basically to get fresh doughnuts and hot coffee for the other members, I crawled over to Elissa Cruz and requested an audience with her. Well, after getting reprimanded for not sorting the strawberry frosted ones from the chocolates, she agreed. It was then, that I practically begged her to let me post a little sooner than the normal thirteen-month rotation that I’m usually on.

Sure, at first she was skeptical. I mean, I probably would be too in her position, but when she heard me speak, she rolled her eyes and sighed. But after that, she agreed to let me post a little early, under the condition that she not be mentioned at all…oh, I should probably not have said that part. Eh, it’s okay, I’m sure I’ll remember to edit it out later.

Anyway, this week my kids, like many others across the nation, went back to school after a fun-filled summer vacation. So naturally, I thought it would be a great idea to write about the escalating inflation rate in the country. Well, she thought it might perhaps be better to write about books that dealt with schools or going back to school. In hindsight, I have to admit that her idea was probably a little bit better. But, anyway, I took that suggestion and ran with it.

Now, granted this topic seemed a little bit broad. Because, a lot of middle-grade books deal with the child’s school or school plays an important part in it. I had to do the only fair thing, and that was basically to pick whichever ones I wanted. So, I narrowed it down toward books that showed what it was like to be the new kid in school. That feeling of excitement, but also nervousness and fear. Wondering if you’ll fit in. Wondering if you’ll make friends. Wondering if you’ll like anyone or anyone will like you. It’s funny that as a teacher now, you get a lot of those same thoughts. As a child though, I both loved and hated going to new schools. But, I did it…a lot. My family moved frequently. And I was fortunate enough to see a lot of interesting places and to meet a lot of interesting people. I made many good friends, and some are friends to this day. But, on the other side of the fence, is the exact opposite of that. When you meet good friends, it sure does stink to have to move away from them. And I had to do that a lot too.

So, here is my small list of books where kids go to new schools.

One of the first ones that comes to mind now, wasn’t even a book when I was a kid. Yeah, I might’ve been just a tad older, but I really enjoyed it nonetheless. Anyway, it’s Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot. I thought Hoot captured a lot of that nervous feeling of going to a new school and trying to fit in and no matter what you do, you inevitably get on the wrong side of the school bully. I remember those times in middle school vividly. I also liked it because it took place in Florida, which is exactly the place where I had many an anxious moment in middle school, after moving to Florida at that time. Doesn’t hurt at all that Hoot has a good sub-plot about saving burrowing owls from a construction site. And with character names like “Mullet Fingers”, what’s not to love?


Another one that I loved, and was around when I was a child, was Thomas Rockwell’s, How to Eat Fried Worms. Right off the bat, great title. Definitely grabs a kid’s attention. The plot centers on ten-year-old Billy entering a new school and getting picked on by a bully. See a theme? I guess I identified a lot with this when I was a kid, since we moved so much, so that type of story resonated with me. But, in the book, the bully, Joe, bets Billy that he can’t eat fifteen worms in fifteen days. Plenty of gross-out moments, which kids will love.


Another more recent one, is Rick Riordan’s, The Lightning Thief. It follows twelve-year-old, Percy Jackson and his discovery that he is in fact the son of the God, Poseidon. Percy has to go to a new school to learn about himself and what worse school could there be to be a new kid of, than one filled with DemiGods and Goddesses?   This was a fun book and a fun twist to the new kid in school theme.


One more book that I’m going to list, is also a fairly new one. Trenton Lee Stewart’s, The Mysterious Benedict Society. This book was sooooo much fun. It’s about eleven-year-old orphan, Reynie Muldoon, who sees an ad seeking gifted children looking for special opportunities. After answering it, he has to compete in a series of tests, using logic and puzzle-solving ability. He then goes to where else? A new school! There, he and several other kids are trained by the mysterious Mr. Benedict, to infiltrate a sinister school. To me, it sounds like senior year of high school all over again, but it was a fun read.


I definitely recommend all of these and would love to hear about some of your favorite new-kid-in-school books as well! One of my friends mentioned to me that there was an obscure one about a kid who discovers he’s a wizard and goes to wizarding school, but I didn’t have time to authenticate it, so I left it off for now.

Anyway, wishing all the kids a great school year and all the parents the strength to get through it.

Until next time…

4 responses to “Back to School

  1. I am a reading teacher, and while perusing Scholastic’s Book Wizard site recently came upon a list of books for spunky girls. It resulted in me reading the Katie John series by Mary Calhoun to my daughters and loving it. In the first book she is new to Barton’s Bluff, Missouri and thinks she doesn’t want to stay, but throughout the book she grows attached to the town and the house she and her family inhabit.

  2. LOVE your list! We love all four of your picks!!

  3. T. P. Jagger

    One of my favorite new-kid-in-school books of all time is SCHOOLED by Gordon Korman. The book’s opening paragraph is even one of my all-time favorites:

    I was thirteen the first time I saw a police officer up close. He was arresting me for driving without a license. At the time, I didn’t even know what a license was. I wasn’t too clear on what being arrested meant either.

    Just typing that opening paragraph makes me want to reread the book! 🙂

  4. Just to make that list a tiny bit longer: in MO WREN, LOST AND FOUND, Mo has to start at a new school in the middle of the year. Ouch.