Sunday, August 18, 2013

MMGM: The Classroom: Student Council Smackdown by Robin Mellom


ABOUT THE BOOK

Libby Gardner and Cindy Applegate are smile-without-teeth friends, but they are fierce rivals when it comes to politics. Cindy owned the student council elections in fourth and sixth grades, while Libby came out on top in fifth. Now, they both hunger for the prestigious title of seventh grade class president.

But middle school elections have their own rules...and pressures. When Trevor Jones is forced to join the presidential race, he devises a plan to make sure his best friend Libby wins. That all changes when he discovers that Libby has oh-so-sneakily gone behind his back by hiring Molly Decker to be her campaign manager. Now, he's in it to win it. And things are going to get ugly.

Join Trevor, Libby, Cindy, and the whole Westside contingency (along with the documentary film crew) as they explore the ugly underbelly of middle school politics.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robin Mellom is the author of DITCHED, her debut teen novel coming January 2012 from Disney-Hyperion. And also THE CLASSROOM, a middle grade series coming from Disney-Hyperion June 2012.

Robin has taught grades 5 through 8 and has a master's degree in education. She lives with her husband and son on the Central Coast of California. Visit her at http://www.robinmellom.com.


INTERVIEW

What's the 'story behind the story'?

I first started writing THE CLASSROOM series about ten years ago. I won awards with it, got an agent with it, but it never sold. I thought it was over for that little book. But when my teen book sold to Disney-Hyperion, my editor asked about other things I'd written. When I mentioned that story, he was elated! They'd been thinking it would be cool to do a book as a mockumentary! So I re-wrote it in third person and used an interview format. Bingo! Never throw away what's in your drawer. :)

What lead you to write about middle school?

I used to be a middle school teacher and my students would constantly ask me to read funny books to them. They were very picky about their humor and the only book that they all adored was SIDEWAYS STORIES FROM WAYSIDE SCHOOL. I read it over and over and over. That was when I made the decision to write funny books for kids.

Whose your favorite character, if you have one? If you don't have a favorite which one do you enjoy writing about the most?

I adore writing about Trevor because he is sort of your typical middle grade student, with some unique quirks. But I find Molly (dark and unimpressed by anything) to be the most fun. She's not like anyone I know and she's a pure kick to write about.

Where do you like to do your writing?

I have an office at home with a lock, which is necessary at times. But when I'm revising, I LOVE to be outdoors--in a park or at the beach. I get my best work done when my feet are stuck in the sand.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you like to do there?

I am strangely drawn to Greece. I imagine myself in a cliffside retreat, wearing a flowing white dress, eating fresh fruit, and enjoying a cocktail the ENTIRE time.

What's your favorite snack?

I have a Pirate's Booty problem. Have you tried those? Puffed something-something with white cheddar. Mmmmmm...

Favorite animal?

I fall in love with every Labrador Retriever I see.

REVIEW

Libby wants more than anything to be the seventh grade class president for Westside Middle School, but thanks to her cousin Luke's advice she despairs of it ever happening, especially with Trevor as her campaign manager.  Trevor loves his new found popularity, achieved after facing off with Corey Long, an 8th grade bully. When Libby tells Trevor that she needs a 'cool' campaign and that one mistake can destroy his popularity things go downhill quickly. After a soda disaster in the cafeteria and a deodorant accident in P.E. which result in the banning of both soda and deodorant, Trevor's popularity plummets.  When Trevor asks Molly to help Libby with her campaign so he can be the third presidential candidate (otherwise the election will never occur) he is shocked to discover that Libby had already asked her.  Hurt feelings, an unidentifiable, mysterious stink that takes over the school, and a perky, glittery rival lead both Trevor and Libby to think that disaster is lurking just around the corner.

An enjoyable second book with fun characters and plenty of humor, Student Council Smackdown uses a documentary format with interviews and photographs and other visuals to help tell the story. A quick, light read great for students who enjoy the Diary of a Wimpy Kid style of book. The humor is sometimes a bit over the top but not surprising for middle school.  It does have the same problem that a lot of this type of book have in that there is a shortage of decent teachers and the assistant principal is an idiot (banning deodorant, seriously?!) But I understand the decision, kids love this kind of book where the kids are front and center. Themes of being yourself, friendship, bullying, and overcoming mistakes are all an important part of this story. And after all, Trevor's and Libby's mothers do play an important part along with Wilson, the not janitor.  Overall a fun read and one I can recommend.


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