Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze
by Alan Silberberg
Some time ago, an Advance Reviewer Copy of this book came to me out of the clear blue. Since it looked, at first glance, like a knockoff of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and its sequels, I wasn't very interested at first. But a day came when, for one reason or another, I wanted a book that I could start and finish in one sitting, and this was the likeliest-looking candidate near the top of the heap of books that daily threatens to collapse and bury me alive. So I read it. And although, yes, it probably has a lot in common with the Wimpy Diaries (which I haven't read), I have to admit... This. Book. Made. Me. Cry.
All right, now that you've dragged that out of me (you big meanie!), let me also admit that it made me laugh.
This first-person story, partly told in the form of doodly comic panels but mostly as text, focuses on Milo Cruikshank's move to a new house, a new school, and a new stage in his life. Not only is he starting junior high school, but he is also starting to get a handle on the grief of losing his mother. It isn't easy when his father isn't the same man he used to be, when every reminder of their lost loved one has been banished from their home, and when kids have their usual difficulty talking to grown-ups and to each other.
Milo forms tentative, touching friendships with a boy and a girl in his school, relationships that have at least their share of comic and dramatic ups and downs. He squirms under the attention of the kindly lady across the street. He develops a ridiculous crush on one of the popular girls and suffers accordingly. He struggles with algebra, hates his gym teacher, and drinks more slushy soft drinks than most mortals can endure.
It has to be difficult for any book, but especially one written for kids, to walk the line between quirky humor and dealing with a serious issue like the loss of a parent. Not everyone will like the balance this book strikes between the two. Perhaps, too, a certain sense that the story goes on too long may be put down to the fact that Milo's family faces a problem for which there is no quick and easy solution. But seeing them beginning to heal may be a healing thing for young readers who face similar issues in their own lives.
The answer this book presents isn't what I would advocate as a Christian minister. But as an account of where its author comes from, Milo's journey stirs compassion. At the very least, it may lead youngsters to look differently at the kid in their class whom nobody notices or respects. If he is at all like Milo, there may be something cool, or fun, or even admirable about him. He won't be perfect--Milo certainly isn't--but he may be someone whose friendship brings beauty to your life. Why don't you take a closer look?
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 10+
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