Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Making It in Middle School: Into the Woods: How I Survived Middle School by Nancy Krulik

With all my camping experience, the only thing I found worrisome about the trip was this whole packing thing.

I had to pick out clothes that were old enough that I wouldn't care if they got ruined or lost at camp, but cool enough to keep me from being teased by the Pops--our school's group of fashion police.

Joyce Kilmer Middle School's sixth and seventh graders are off for five fun-filled days at Camp Einstein, and as usual, Jenny is trying to survive the power struggle between the Pops, the "popular club" which now includes her former BFF Addie Wilson, and her new "non-Pops" friends. Her new girl friends--Sam, Chloe, Rachel, and Felicia--have requested that they share a cabin together with her, so Jenny's pre-camp jitters are pretty much limited to wardrobe worries.

But the camp directors have other ideas about social groupings, and Jenny, Chloe, and Sam find themselves stuck in a cabin with Addie and Dana Harrison, the queen of the Pops. Jenny, Chloe, and Sam resolve to avoid their Pops roomies as much as possible, but even though numbers are on their side, Jenny knows that they have their work cut out for them for the next five days.

This wasn't the regular world. This was the middle school world. And in our world Pops were more powerful than non-Pops no matter what the numbers. It was just the way it was.

Dana and Addie show up with a forbidden hair dryer and straightener and try to blame the non-Pops for them when they blow the camp's fuses. Caught with the contraband, Dana and Addie wind up on KP the first day, and out for revenge, Dana blames a "sprained ankle" acquired during a trust exercise on her non-Pops partner so that she can order her to fetch and carry for the next few days. The Pops heckle Jenny's friend Josh mercilessly, calling him "Mr. Science Geek," and his girlfriend "Ms. Science Geek" as they belittle his interest in nature studies.

The non-Pops get the last laugh, however, when Jenny shouts "Mouse!" in the cafeteria and Dana drops her crutches and nimbly hops atop a table. And when Addie's misuse of the compass gets the group lost on their night hike, Josh's knowledge of astronomy helps him to become a superstar when he locates the North Star and steers the group safely out of the woods and back to camp. As Jenny puts it philosophically,

That's the thing about middle school. Nothing ever stays the same.

One minute the Pops are the ones everybody wants to be around. Then suddenly everyone's dying to learn how to find the Big Dipper in the sky from Mr. Science Geek.

Nancy Krulik's recent Into The Woods (How I Survived Middle School) (Scholastic, 2009) joins her other books in the How I Survived Middle School series in offering both solid guidance and a light-handed humorous look at the sudden changes in everything that middle school brings.

For my posted review of the first book in the series, Can You Get An F In Lunch? (How I Survived Middle School) and some helpful nonfiction guides to middle school survival, take a look here.

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