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Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Humor, Lovelace Award Nominee, Middle Grade Readers, Read-Aloud Suggestions

MILO: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg…2013-14 Lovelace Nominee

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I truly enjoyed Milo.  When I first saw it, I thought it was going to be another poor attempt at imitating the success of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  Although similar in visual style and in the genuineness of the narrator’s voice, Milo stands on its own as a remarkable addition to this year’s Lovelace Nominees.

Milo is in love with a girl at his school–although they have never even spoken and she has no idea who he is.  Having moved multiple times in the last couple years Milo is once again the “new kid” at his school.  In order to face the anxiety associated with both his unfamiliarity with the school and his crush on Summer Goodman he creates a suave, confident alter ego to tell him what to do at school–a way to come outside himself.

Although the author ultimately neglects the ‘alter ego’ idea (one of the few flaws in the plot–to introduce it and then not use it) it does give the reader a subtle ‘heads up’ that Milo NEEDS a way to step outside of himself and his home life.  A little further into the story we discover that Milo’s frequent moving has occurred in the wake of his mother’s death from cancer.

Milo is confused, grief-stricken and angry with his mother: for dying; and his father: for failing to communicate any emotion or understanding to his son and for trying to wipe his mother’s existence away.  Milo’s father has given or thrown away everything that belonged to Milo’s mother as a result of his own grief.  Everything in their home, their lives, has become silent.  There is no music, no laughing, no joking, no real talking or living any more.  Milo wants it all back but cannot figure out how to give voice to those feelings.

Milo is able to identify that his crush on Summer has the effect of diverting his concentration from the sadness that pervades every aspect of his home existence.  And it also leads him accidentally into friendships with two of his other classmates–friendships that will prove more satisfying in the end than his crush.

Although I was disappointed in what I felt was an unrealistic (and unnecessary) resolution to Milo’s relationship with Summer in a final scene I enjoyed my reading experience with Milo.  The result of Milo’s garage sale excursions, as well as the willingness and generosity with which his new friends participate and support him, was one of the most moving scenes in the book for me.

This book combines some of the best elements of middle school humor with the honesty of grief from a middle school student perspective.  As children we all have the ability to make our parents’ happiness our responsibility when we really just want to be kids, have fun and have our parents stay in the roles we have assigned them as our protectors, cheerleaders and nurturers.  Milo gives voice to all the confusing feelings and misguided actions so many of us have (or ARE) experiencing.  For this reason Milo:  Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze has the potential to touch both student and adult readers alike.

 

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