Things Seen from Above by Shelley Pearsall

For much needed perspective in middle-school, try looking at “Things seen from above.”

*Things Seen from Above by ShelleyPearsall, with illustrations by Xingye Jin. Knopf (PRH), 2020, 253 pages

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 10-15

April Boxler is sitting out sixth grade—almost literally. Her best friend Julie has started wearing makeup and putting colored streaks in her hair and talking about things April is clueless about. Also hanging out with girls who talk the same way. So, instead of suffering through lunch period trying to “fit in,” April has volunteered for the Buddy Bench during fourth grade recess, where she can help keep order among the younger kids. That’s how she meets Joey Byrd. Though “meet” isn’t quite the right verb, because Joey lives in his own world and doesn’t respond to social prompts. When he’s not lying on the playground with arms spread, staring up at the sky, he’s walking in circles scuffing up the gravel.

April—a generous soul, even if something of a manager—tries to talk to him and keep the other kids from making fun of him. But she doesn’t understand what’s really going on until Mr. Ulysses, the school custodian, takes her to the roof of the building for a breath-taking view. What she took to be random scuffles is actually art. Joey’s meanderings are deliberate, producing striking patterns on the playground: waves and spirals and even a recognizable face of the school’s tiger mascot. Who knew he was had such a gift? But when Joey’s gift wins unwelcome attention, April wonders how far she should go to protect him.

We learn at the end that April is writing from the prospective of a high-school senior looking back: “[W]e were all changing . . . our outlines kept moving and changing every day—and there was no telling who we would eventually become.” April is still changing, but “Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I try to look at things the way Joey did. From above.” She’s learned a lot about herself already. Ang she may not be a “rare bird” like Joey, but she can appreciate the rarity of the few, as well as the ordinariness of the rest. And so can we all. Things Seen from Above is a rare bird of a book, that can take fresh look at the middle-grade transitional fury and say something young readers, like April, can think about for years afterward.

Overall Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Worldview/moral value: 4Artistic/literary value: 5We are participants in the Amazon LLC affiliate program; purchases you make through affiliate links like the one below may earn us a commission. Read more here.


Also on Redeemed Reader:

If your library is still closed, as mine is, put this title on your reserve list or see if it’s available through one of the library online services. See “Tapping into the Library” for pointers.For a lighter take on middle grades, see the popular Origami Yoda series.In Always, Abigail the middle-grade protagonist learns some important life lessons.
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