June 29


#TeamEverybody by Shelli Thelen

Abby Cooper has done it again!  With her second novel being released in July of 2017, Cooper gives us Bubbles. Sophie Mulvaney gives us a peek into what life is like for a typical sixth grader. She wants to be well-liked, good at everything, and maybe even have a boyfriend.  However, Sophie carries the problems of others on her shoulders and that weight brings her down–figuratively and literally, she falls down a lot!  The weight of the world is real and it is seriously holding her back from being the Adventurous Girl that her friends could count on.

Going through adolescence is tough and unpredictable. We all can remember how insecure we felt when friendships changed or shifted through the teen years. There was worry and jealousy when seeing your best friends get cozy with a new friend. The author’s words will connect with middle grade readers that are navigating friendships and the new rules that come with social media. Our hearts break for Sophie when she discovers one day that she has no new friend requests, while she sees her friends’ numbers grow.

All of this worrying that Sophie holds, creates an unusual human response. One day, as she is spying on her mother’s ex-boyfriend, she discovers that there is a “speech bubble” over his head and that she can read it. As Sophie’s struggles swell, so do the speech bubbles. She reaches a point where she wishes that she could turn them off.  Instead, however, she decides to use the speech bubbles to help others, will she deliver on her finely constructed plan?

Middle-grade readers will relate to the challenges of friendship and wanting to be all things for all people. In an age where so many tweens communicate about their lives digitally and may present an illusion that their life is wonderfully happy, they will discover that there is no replacement for talking to someone else and just listening. Hopefully, readers will learn that friends can be found in many places and that having your friends and family by your side are all that really matters.

If you have not read Abby Cooper’s first book, Stick and Stones, you must get it into your hands and read it now. Cooper’s first book, published in July of 2016, is another story of the power of words and self-acceptance. If you teach fifth or sixth grade, this is a perfect book to read aloud at the start of the school year. As you are building your classroom community and defining expectations, students will have many conversations about the gravity of our words and how they can hurt or heal others and ourselves as a result of this wonderful story.

Both stories by Cooper will ask the reader to define a mission statement for their self. What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of person do you want in your circle of friends?  We can choose to love ourselves and others. We have the power to move through the difficult times and overcome great odds when we stick to our core values and fight for what we believe to be true. If you have not read a book by Abby Cooper, now is the time. You won’t regret it. The readers in you life won’t either!

Shelli Thelen is a fifth-grade teacher for the Columbia Public School District in Missouri. After teaching 13 years in Kindergarten, Shelli made the jump up to fifth-grade and has loved reading with her students for the past two years. Shelli Thelen is an adjunct professor at Westminster University in Fulton, Missouri. You can follow Shelli’s classroom on Twitter @thelensthinkers or take a peek at her classroom blog at http://www.thelensthinkers.blogspot.com.