Playing Through the Turnaround

playing through the turnaround

Jake's Aunt Cece is getting married for the two milionth time and they expect him to wear hot pink, rose-infested socks.

Cassie's father has moved her again and again and again and she doesn't ever want to move again. She's left her best friend three times and has moved back again three times.   Her dad's about  to get married - again - and just maybe that will keep him in one place for a while.

There are kids at schools that teachers like.  Quagmire Tiarello is not one of those kids. He made war on Mrs. Tyler from the moment he heard her tell another teacher, "I'd call a parent-teacher conference on him ...but you know his mom is such a mess.  She won't do a thing about it."  Then Mrs. Harken comes along and she gives him a look and it's a look he hasn't ever seen before and he's not sure what it means.

"Speak up."  Lily is always being told to speak up but she's figured out some truths about that....

Lily's favorite thing is coming home where her mother will touch her head and ask her how her day went.  Home is where Lily is safe.  Home is where no one makes Lily feel small and less than.

Nick's mother decided he should be in the school band.  She'd gone to three school choral concerts and decided an instrument was the way to go.  That's when Nick's grandfather got up, left the room and came back with his old Nick plays the trumpet now.  It can get ugly.

Nick's phone used to be only for checking in with her mom when he got home.  Not anymore.

Mac Silva is always in a good mood.  At 7:40am he has enthusiasm - sure he's in school - but he's beating out a drum beat as he passes locker after locker.  Today the Silva tee shirt says Noxious Weeds. Everybody's Problem.

Middle school where the cliques abound.  Where will you fit in?  For these six kids it turns out that at least on Tuesday and Thursday of every week they have a place to go where their world becomes impossibly awesome.  They come alive and reach into themselves and discover something truly amazing - and it turns out that together they are pretty incredible.

Mr. Lewis is one of those teachers who just really "gets" kids.  His room is the Jazz Lab and that's where Jake, Cassie, Mac, Nick, Lily and eventually Quag find their place.  Maybe it doesn't start out perfectly but after some Tuesdays and Thursdays things really start to explode.  It's just awesome.

So, when fiscal responsibility comes to call, and it appears that Jazz Lab and a bunch of other electives and clubs are going to be axed due to budget cuts, this team finds their voices and decides to stand up and fight for what matters to them the most.... but will their parents finally listen? Will the teachers finally listen? Will anyone listen?

Sometimes those kids the teachers don't like come up with some pretty cool ideas!

272 pages 978-0358645498 Ages 9-13

Keywords: middle school, belonging, being included, finding yourself, finding your voice, music, jazz, Fine Arts Curriculum, friends, friendship, understanding others, family life, dysfunctional family, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, 13 year old, standing up for yourself

Recommended by:  Barb Langridge,


In a timely, insightful story told with sparkling wit and heart, young musicians protesting plans for budget cuts navigate miscalculations, indifferent adults, and unexpected loss as they discover the power of speaking out and the value of listening.

“A brave and dazzling debut, this timely novel is a blueprint for hope.”—Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medalist and best-selling author of The One and Only Ivan

“Keen and clear and fiercely funny.”—Linda Sue Park, Newbery Medalist and best-selling author of A Long Walk to Water

“Brilliant, sharp, comic, poignant, and true.”— Gary D. Schmidt, two-time Newbery Honor-winning author of The Wednesday Wars

“A splendid novel filled with honesty and heart.”—Karina Yan Glaser, best-selling author of the Vanderbeekers series.

Fifth period is hands down the best time of day in Connor U. Eubanks Middle School, because that’s when Mr. Lewis teaches Jazz Lab. So his students are devastated when their beloved teacher quits abruptly. Once they make a connection between budget cuts and Mr. Lewis’s disappearance, they hatch a plan: stop the cuts, save their class.

Soon, they become an unlikely band of crusaders, and their quest quickly snowballs into something much bigger—a movement involving the whole middle school. But the adults in charge seem determined to ignore their every protest. How can the kids make themselves heard?---from the publisher

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