Monday, May 5, 2014

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: THE MEANING OF MAGGIE by Megan Jean Sovern (Interview and ARC Giveaway)

THE MEANING OF MAGGIE by Megan Jean Sovern (Chronicle Books, May 2014)

What It's About (from Goodreads): For Maggie Mayfield, turning eleven means she's one year closer to college. One year closer to voting. And one year closer to getting a tattoo. It's time for her to pull herself up by her bootstraps (the family motto) and think about more than after school snacks and why her older sisters are too hot for their own good. Because something mysterious is going on with her cool dude Dad, whose legs have permanently fallen asleep, and Maggie is going to find out exactly what the problem is and fix it. After all, nothing's impossible when you're future president of the United States of America, fifth grade science fair champion, and a shareholder in Coca-Cola, right?

Opening Lines: (Prologue) ~~ Beep. Beep. Beep. My dad won't stop beeping. And it's impossible to concentrate while my dad is beeping. He's been beeping for almost a whole day now. And it's not the friendly beep of an ice cream truck backing up after you chased it halfway down the block either.
What I Liked: This novel has VOICE in spades. Maggie is intelligent, self-aware, and humorous--particularly when writing about her older sisters, Tiffany and Layla, who are high schoolers.

I laughed a lot while reading this book--even though the subject matter is fundamentally serious and a little sad. Maggie's "cool dude" dad has multiple sclerosis, and it's getting worse. He's had to give up his job and stay home, while Maggie's mom has gone to work as a head housekeeper at a large hotel. But while this situation upends Maggie's life, the humorous way in which she sees the world is redemptive. Here's a taste, just after she's arrived at the hospital after her dad has had a seizure:
"We went back up to the waiting room where it was minus one hundred degrees. I  nuzzled in close to Mom's side again because it was warm there because her body functioned at a temperature higher than most adults because she had more to do than anyone else.
She winked at my sisters. "You know your father, he loves making a scene. But don't worry, girls. Everything's going to be okay."
I felt safe next to her molten side. And I believed her."
Each of the supporting characters is incredibly well-drawn--from the parents, to the sisters, to the negative grandmother who is totallly self-absorbed. I also loved all of Maggie's escapades at school, including her B at the Science Fair (all because she does a project on her dad's illness, but of course there's no cure, so she gets docked points for that. Here is her riff on the winner--and I dare you to keep a straight face:
"Getting a B on my science fair project really wrecked me. Not only because Bs were for losers but because some idiot went on to win MY blue ribbon. Jeremy Smith did some boring report on windmills and how they solve the energy crisis. Yeah right, the only thing that was going to solve the energy crisis was math and A LOT of it. The worst part? He didn't even have a ta-da moment. He just made a lame three-panel board covered in a bunch of pictures. I just didn't know what those judges were thinking. Didn't anyone have standards anymore? You think Albert Einstein ever made a three-panel board? Of course not! He had awesome hair and people with awesome hair only did awesome things, just like Dad and me."
And then there's the footnotes. Pure genius! Read the book, and see what I mean

I enjoyed this book so much, I decided to shoot the author my trademark Mafioso questions. Here's what she came up with (my comments in italics):

1) Who are your favorite (middle grade) writers?
Rebecca Stead, Kate DiCamillo, R.J Palacio, Lemony Snicket, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Roald Dahl and my eight-year-old niece Lane. Her imagination is ahead of its time. 
(I don't know Lane (yet!)--but you have to admit Megan Jean Sovern has excellent taste with all the others...)

2) What's on your nightstand now?
Going Over by Beth Kephart, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and L is for Lollygag because you just never know when you’re going to need a quirky word. (Ooh! Beth Kephart. I have some serious Beth Kephart love going on!)

3) Pick a favorite scene from your novel, and say why you like it
I think the truest words written are buried somewhere in the final chapters when Maggie says, “Because no one loved anyone as much as we loved Dad.” It’s my favorite because that thought means everything. To Maggie. And to me.  (Amen!)

4) Fill in the blank: I'm really awesome at....  
Being really bad at dancing, whistling and sleeping.  (Yikes! I'm great at all this. I'll have to send some of my magic Megan Jean's way...)

5) My favorite breakfast is...
Cinnamon rolls and CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood. 

6) If you could visit any place, where would it be?
Mr. McGregor’s vegetable garden. (Greatest. Answer. Ever. The imagination boggles!)

About the Author: Megan Jean Sovern has one of the coolest websites ever. She is one hilarious person, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and is represented by Marietta Zacker.

Giveaway: I received the ARC of THE MEANING OF MAGGIE from Chronicle Books, in exchange for an honest review, and I am so in love with this story that I want one of you to win it from me so you can laugh and cry over it too. Just leave a comment, and I will pick a winner next week. Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Of course, when my life becomes the setting for historical fiction, it's always a bad feeling. Loved the cover on this one.

  2. This is going on my to-read list right now! Books that blend the serious with humor are my favorites.

  3. What an intriguing cover and so is the premise. Love the humor and voice in this one. I have already added it to my TBR list. Thanks for featuring.

  4. I love this! Yes, VOICE galore - even in the summary. Checking out her website now...

  5. Loved her website...I agree on its awesomeness. And thank goodness we only have to wait until tomorrow for this one!

  6. Terrific review and interview. I really, really want to read this one. Thanks!

  7. Wow! You've caught my attention with your description. This is definitely a book I'd like to read.


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