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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Middle school kids often receive far too little attention by way of study and research. Perhaps some believe that middle school kids are not worth studying separately from adolescence since it is such a brief period of time. Yet, at the same time, there is probably no age group that goes through such a significant and dramatic set of developmental changes in a few short years than middle schoolers.

I applaud Linda Perlstein's efforts to capture the essence of middle school kids and to represent the trials and tribulations of this age. In her study, Perlstein spent a year's time becoming a part of a real middle school. Rather than study these kids from an academic perspective, Perlstein took a much more holistic and anthropological approach. She talked to the kids, she watched the kids, she spoke to their parents, and she observed their relational interactions and their highs and lows and she spent a lot of time with their teachers.

The result of Linda Perlstein's efforts is a significant book for educators, parents and kids on the struggles of middle school years. While some might attack this as a study less scientific or quantitative than rigorous academics might prefer, I believe that she is right on the mark in reporting on these kids through her experience of them. This is a tough age and my belief is that it grows even more stressful on kids as our society continues to change and as kids mature faster on a physical level.

I believe this is a book that should be read by a number of different groups and that it could be a foundation for some wonderful discussions among teachers and between teachers and parents.

An understudied subject most interestingly presented. Highly Recommended.

Daniel J. Maloney
Saint Paul, Minnesota USA
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2003
I heartily applaud what the author set out to do, and (as the parent of a 6th grader) I couldn't wait to get my hands on her book. I have to say I was pretty disappointed overall. While the author chooses to focus on 5 middle schoolers, she devotes a disproportionate amount of time to the girls' relationships and problems; by the end of the book I felt I knew much less about the problems facing boys. Why, for instance, does she go into great detail about the bat mitzvah of Elizabeth, but only briefly refer to the wedding of Eric's dad -- an event with equally large impact in his life?
Often she makes recommendations for parents or teachers to follow without citing any reference (other than, presumably, the comments of these admittedly self-centered tweeners). And her style of narrative can be confusing -- characters are brought into the story with little or no introduction, only to disappear and never return.
Having said all that, I still am glad I read the book. I feel I gleaned a few insights (and of course am comforted to know I'm not the only parent wondering where my wonderful child went). However, if you are looking for a more thoroughly researched book with clear suggestions for middle school parents and teachers, I highly recommend "Our Last Best Shot" by Laura Sessions Stepp. She takes a similar approach but, for my money, gets right to the heart of the matter while Perlstein floats on the surface.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Would you like to turn back time and repeat your middle school/junior high school days? NO!? Most of us would not want to revisit that developmental period of growing pains, rioting hormones, instant crushes, and social angst.
Linda Perlstein narrates the emotional rollercoaster rides of five "tweens" over one academic year in a suburban middle school in MD. She insightfully captures their dialogue, their mood swings, and their daily dramas. Parents about to experience their first "tween" and students in the field of education who are interested in teaching this age group will be benefit from reading this book.
I taught middle schoolers for nine of my 24 years in public school education and I remember clearly their emotional responses: "I didn't do anything!" "Why are you picking on me?" I was always surprised to learn, "I didn't like her yesterday, but today she's my best friend." Chaperoning dances was a learning experience about sexual development. The sixth graders were still separated by sex with boys leaning nervously against one wall and girls huddled on the other wall; the seventh graders chased and hit each other; and, the eighth graders melted together.
I found this book to be both enjoyable and enlightening. There were moments when I laughed out loud and moments when I empathized. Woven into the narrative about the students, Ms. Perlstein includes some pearls of wisdom from parents, educators, and medical professionals for working with "tweens." This is a time of tremendous change and many challenges for students. Hopefully, they will enjoy some of the moments on their rollercoaster rides between childhood and adulthood. And, adults involved with this age group are wise to remember, this too shall pass.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2003
In Not Much Just Chillin', Linda Perlstein illustrates some of the important themes of the critical 11-13 age group through five frustrating, endearing and ultimately fascinating kids at Wilde Lake Middle School. Everybody can relate to the complex feelings and relationships revealed through Jackie, Eric, Elizabeth, Jimmy and Lily, but what parents will find most fascinating is what is going on in the lives of their middle-schoolers that the kids believe is "too much" for their parents to deal with. Perlstein effectively weaves in advice for parents and other adult figures in kids' lives and includes interesting notes from psychologists, teachers, sociologists, and other experts on "tweens". Written with humor and compassion, "Not Much Just Chillin'" is a must-read for anybody who deals with this age group.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2005
First of all, everyone that says this book isn't accurate is retarded. I go to WSMS and this book is so right it's like it was written by an eighth grader. She does a great job, perhaps you people don't have the insight to realise this book goes deeper. This book even helped me understand myself, I recommend it to girls and boys my age (eighth grade) who are looking to see through the eyes of another. It's hard being who we are, and this kinda makes it easier. :)
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2003
Persltein has provided an excellent and informative portrayal of the lives of middle school students in this important book. All too often, pre-teen and early adolescent children are overlooked as subjects of both popular and academic literature. This book offers a multi-faceted window into the worlds of these kids at a critical time in their social/behavioral, academic, and organizational development. As a social worker at a public middle school, I found Perlstein's observations to be accurate and insightful. She has expertly woven a narrative of the lives of these students with child development theory in a manner that is digestible to all audiences. I have recommended this book to education and social work colleagues, as well as parents and students. It is both an enjoyable and informative read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Middle school kids often receive far too little attention by way of study and research. Perhaps some believe that middle school kids are not worth studying separately from adolescence since it is such a brief period of time. Yet, at the same time, there is probably no age group that goes through such a significant and dramatic set of developmental changes in a few short years than middle schoolers.

I applaud Linda Perlstein's efforts to capture the essence of middle school kids and to represent the trials and tribulations of this age. In her study, Perlstein spent a year's time becoming a part of a real middle school. Rather than study these kids from an academic perspective, Perlstein took a much more holistic and anthropological approach. She talked to the kids, she watched the kids, she spoke to their parents, and she observed their relational interactions and their highs and lows and she spent a lot of time with their teachers.

The result of Linda Perlstein's efforts is a significant book for educators, parents and kids on the struggles of middle school years. While some might attack this as a study less scientific or quantitative than rigorous academics might prefer, I believe that she is right on the mark in reporting on these kids through her experience of them. This is a tough age and my belief is that it grows even more stressful on kids as our society continues to change and as kids mature faster on a physical level.

I believe this is a book that should be read by a number of different groups and that it could be a foundation for some wonderful discussions among teachers and between teachers and parents.

An understudied subject most interestingly presented. High Recommended.

James J. Maloney
Saint Paul, Minnesota USA
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2003
I attended Wilde Lake Middle more than 20 years ago and Linda Perlstein has shown me either how much middle school has changed or how little self-awareness I had during those tender years. Or perhaps both. Perlstein opens the door into the strange world of 6th- through 8th-graders as they cope with increasing academic demands, struggle (above all else, it seems) to fit in as new social dynamics swirl about them and, of course, deal with the physical changes of adolescence. She does so with insight, humor and compassion -- and an engaging narrative flair. We come to know each child she follows and to feel for them even when we (not to mention their parents and teachers) are dumbfounded by their actions. In a few instances the details Perlstein reveals seem so personal and intimate that I was amazed at the level of trust she established with her subjects, always the hallmark of a good reporter. My one quibble with the book is that Perlstein uses pseudonyms -- to protect the children's privacy, I presume -- and so we are not treated to pictures of the kids she profiles. In one way or another, however, all of their parents should be proud of their participation in this ambitious project.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2003
Perlstein has obviously very successfully immersed herself into the Wilde Lake middle school community. While the book is arranged topically, it takes place over the course of a school year, which means that she must have spent some serious time in this strange world of "tweens." She takes her readers into classrooms, bedrooms, cafeterias, cars, orthodontist offices, any place that might shed some light on the psychology of a middle school student. While Perstein offers precious little medical evidence and studies other than in the first chapter, her careful choice of behavior descriptions make it clear just what is happening in the brains of children this age. You may even discover some not-so-flattering behaviors about yourself that you find need to change as you read.
I believe this book would give middle school children wonderful insight into themselves.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2005
I heard Linda speak at the National Middle School Convention in 2003. During her presentation, she used quotes from this text. I was so intrigued, I purchased the book that day and read it in its entirety throughout the following days.

Reading this took me back to my time as a 'junior high' student. The feelings came rushing back and that experience has changed many of the ways I deal with my middle school students each and every day. I recommend this to my teachers as it provides a unique, humorous and sometimes touching insight into the 'tweenagers' we encounter.

The book is well written and kept a reluctant reader VERY interested. I highly recommend this book to middle school teachers and parents of middle-aged children.
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