Middle school is tough. We’ve all experienced it, and I’ve seen it play out as a middle school teacher. Students are making new friends, dealing with bullies, and feeling the pressure of fitting in with their peers, all the while trying to balance their home life and school work. Students can feel alone during this time, but most others are going through the same thing. In All’s Faire in Middle School, Newbery Honor author Victoria Jamieson paints a realistic coming of age graphic novel about a girl navigating middle school.
Impy is an eleven year old who has been homeschooled her whole life. She lives with her dad, mom, and younger brother who all participant in the town’s Renaissance fair. Each year growing up, Impy helped out in her mom’s shop, but now she is old enough to join the cast as a squire. As a knight’s apprentice, Impy wants to prove to herself, and to others, that she is brave enough to become a knight one day. She chooses to enroll in a traditional middle school to test her bravery. How hard could it really be?
While she fits in perfectly well with the people at the fair, the same cannot be said about middle school. Luckily, a student calls her over to sit with her at lunch on Impy’s first day, and she finds a group of friends that seems great. As each day passes, she feels the need to change who she is in order to fit in. She buys the same clothes as her peers, but then she gets made fun of because they are from the thrift store. To be liked, Impy does something cruel to another student. It makes her question if she really is as brave as a knight, or if she’s becoming the kind of creature a knight should defeat. Impy learns she has to decide what type of person she wants to become.
Jamieson, author of Roller Girl, has a knack for creating a story for middle schoolers to understand and empathize with other students. This book is funny, heartwarming, and realistic. She does an amazing job at building an accurate middle school world and developing characters to go along with it. As readers, we can really sympathize with what Impy (and her family) is experiencing. The story depicts the struggles middle schoolers face as they navigate school. It also shows that kids make mistakes as they are growing up and demonstrates that the most important part of growing up is how you handle those mistakes.
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