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How to Survive Middle School Paperback – August 9, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 5–7—As a huge fan of comedic TV anchorman Jon Stewart, David Greenberg creates original Talk Time videos starring himself and his hamster, and posts them on YouTube. His former friend, Elliott, used to collaborate on the videos, but now chooses to hang out with Tommy Murphy, an infamous bully who besets David, a lowly sixth grader. Short and scrawny, David is an easy target for Tommy's depredations, yet he simultaneously wins the friendship and loyalty of sweet Sophie, who tells all her friends to view his hilarious videos and post great comments, bringing good publicity to David, who intends to become a famous talk-show host. Then Hammy dies, and after Tommy subjects David to the ultimate indignity of a swirlie, he wonders what good is it to be famous online while being called Lameberg at school. Part of his problem is that he misses his mother, who abandoned the family for another man, as well as the fact that he insulted his older sister by mocking her acne treatments in his videos. Then there's Elliott, whose fickle behavior defies understanding, but who eventually returns to being David's friend. Things start to look up with the exciting news that David's clever videos will be aired on The Daily Show. With short chapters and broad humor, this one is for "Wimpy Kid" aficionados (Abrams).—Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Oy, but David Greenberg has troubles: he is still missing his mother two years after she moved to another state; his longtime best friend, Elliott, has been behaving like a schmuck since hitting puberty; and even before the first day at Harmon (aka “Hormone”) Middle School, he has become a feared bully’s victim of choice. On the other hand, though his father is distant, his live-in grandmother is a reliable provider of food and support; his teenage sister Lindsey is always good for a quick hug; and he has really hit it off with new classmate Sophia—a smart, peppermint-scented, and refreshingly unselfconscious ex-homeschooler. Best of all (maybe), the Daily Show–style videos he has been posting on YouTube have gone viral, and suddenly he is a local celebrity. Readers will understand how good David really has it long before he does, and—despite a late, clumsily handled revelation that his mom won’t be coming home because she is too agoraphobic to travel—Gephart crafts for her likable protagonist an engaging, feel-good transition into adolescence that’s well stocked with tears and laughter. Grades 5-8. --John Peters --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 660L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling (August 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375854118
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375854118
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #247,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Donna Gephart is a professional nerd.

Her love for libraries and reading have led her to a career as a children's book author for Penguin Random House. Her books now reside on the shelves of the library she frequented when she was a child.

Her humorous/heartbreaking middle grade novels include:

1. DEATH BY TOILET PAPER -- Will Ben be able to keep a promise to his recently deceased dad and save his family from eviction, using his creativity and contest skills?
2. OLIVIA BEAN, TRIVIA QUEEN -- Can Olivia overcome huge obstacles to achieve her dream of appearing on the TV quiz show Jeopardy!?
3. HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL -- David is famous online from his hilarious YouTube videos, but how will he ever survive middle school?
4. AS IF BEING 12-3/4 ISN'T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT -- won the prestigious Sid Fleischman Humor Award and the Florida State Book Award. Can spelling bee champ, Vanessa, do what's necessary to save her mom from an assassination attempt on the campaign trail?

Donna's books have won a number of awards, received starred reviews and landed on many state reading lists.

She's a popular speaker at schools, book festivals, libraries and conferences, including the S.C.B.W.I. National Conference, the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers' Workshop, F.A.M.E., the Conference on Children's Literature and others.

Originally from Philadelphia, Donna now lives in South Florida with her family, including two sweet shelter dogs, Benji and Teddy.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Hudson on April 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
David Greenburg is 11 years old and about to start middle school. He's not too worried until his older cousin Jack tells him about the horrors he may face, including a toilet-bowl swirlie on his birthday. David has other worries on his mind too: his mom left the family to live on a farm in Maine that has no electricity or phone service, his best friend Elliott no longer speaks to him, and his older sister Lindsay is hostile a lot of the time. The only good thing he has going is his grandmother, Bubbe, the TalkTime videos he records and posts on YouTube, and his pet hamster.

Things start to look up when he meets Sophie on his first day of school. Sophie is just starting public school after being taught at home by her mom, and she loves David's videos. When she spreads the word about TalkTime through her homeschool network, David's videos suddenly become way more popular than he is, leading to consequences both good and bad.

How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart is a funny and poignant look at a trying time of life for most adolescents. The comforts of elementary school are gone, some kids are maturing way faster than others, teachers are stricter, and new friendships are forming while old ones may be falling away. Bullies may be more of a problem. Gephart does a great job of showing how conflicted David feels about so much going on around him.

Mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 12 will find a lot to talk about here--friendships, family relationships, relating to parents after divorce, pets, YouTube, and both the rewards and pitfalls of growing up. You may also want to serve Bubbe's Jewish Apple Cake (recipe included at the back of the book) when you get together to talk about this book.

I laughed a lot and cried a little while reading How to Survice Middle School, and I highly recommend it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Donovan on December 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
***** This review is spoiler-free!! DON'T read the "editorial reviews" on the book's page, unless you want major spoilers!! ******

This was seriously laugh out loud funny. And then by the end, I was hit with the heart. That's the kind of one-two punch that makes for a knockout of a read.

I'm not crazy about the cover, because it just doesn't live up to what's inside the pages, but that little guy is Hammy, David Greenberg's hamster who he features in the Talk Time videos he makes for You Tube, in the style of his hero Jon Stewart. Middle school (6th grade) is not easy for him. His longtime best friend teams up with the school bully, he is dealing with the loss of his mother, who ran out on them a while ago, and he's getting bullied and nicknamed "Lameberg." On the upside, he befriends Sophie, who is new to the school after being homeschooled, and he learns to develop some of his strengths and talents.

My 12-year-old daughter and I both loved this book. It's a perfect book for an older middle school reader (5th - 7th grade).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Julie Peterson on May 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL (WITHOUT GETTING YOUR HEAD FLUSHED) AND DEAL WITH AN EX-BEST FRIEND, ...UM, GIRLS, AND A HEARTBREAKING HAMSTER by Donna Gephart is an extremely fun book that kids are guaranteed to love. It is the story of David Greenberg, a pre-teen boy who aspires to be the next Jon Stewart! In the meantime, he attends middle school where he's not exactly in the cool crowd and he makes videos with his pet hamster Hammy for fun. When he and his best friend have a falling out, he finds himself friends with the new girl Sophie. David learns that his life is full of changes, and with Sophie's help, he suddenly becomes famous!

I so enjoyed this very funny novel. There is no doubt that Ms. Gephart has a wonderful sense of humor. At times, I even laughed out loud while reading this book. David is just a fantastic character, and I couldn't help but fall a little in love with him. He was so smart and creative (and a little naive), and he had great insight into life. But what I really found funny was his ability to laugh at himself. He was such a great kid, and I think lots of readers are going to be able to relate to him!

While this novel was extremely entertaining, it was also very touching and tender. David's mother left the family and moved away. She has little contact with David except for letters, and it's obvious that David misses her dearly. My heart really went out to him over and over again for the pain he felt from being abandoned. In addition, I also felt compassion towards David because of his insecurities. He was worried about starting middle school (he had many of the same feelings that my daughter currently has) and he actually feared some of the bullies at school. I also think David's pre-teen anxieties are going to resonate with many young readers.
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Format: Hardcover
For 11-year-old David Greenberg, a recent fifth-grade graduate, the future could be very bright. He's been making his own comedy videos and putting them on YouTube, hoping that someday he can be like Jon Stewart. Not many people are watching the videos so far, but he has high hopes. Still, the book's descriptions let us know that David's videos are funny and clever, especially when he gets his pet hamster involved or interviews a Magazine Cover Jon Stewart.

Then he starts middle school. And things just go downhill. David's best friend, Elliott, has ditched him to hang out with a bully named Tommy. There are rumors of kids getting swirlies at the school, and one way or another, David keeps getting in trouble with teachers. He used to be such a good student, only for things to go wrong. He gets suspended his very first day, which is not a good start.

David has some sadness in his home life, too. He lives with his father, sister, grandmother and hamster, but no mother. She moved out two years ago, and he still misses her. Other characters often unknowingly ask for his mother, as if they don't take into consideration that lots of families don't have mothers in the picture. Having her mostly gone from his life (except for a few letters) gets to David. It's ironic that his own father is a newspaper advice columnist, yet the family doesn't always know how to handle heartbreak within itself.

David continues to work on his videos, and there is a girl at school he likes named Sophie. She was previously homeschooled and gets too much of her mother, which is the opposite of David's situation. Sophie's mother hovers and feels suffocating. What's worse --- not having a mother there, or having a mother there constantly?
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