The ABCs of Middle Grade: Encyclopedia of Me Review

karen rivers

In my pledge to read more middle grade in 2013, I give you the latest from a wonderful Canadian author who totally gets the tween experience. The Encyclopedia of Me came out in mid 2012, but I did not get around to it until recently. I am very glad that I did!

Tink Aaron-Martin has decided to tell her story in a way that interests her: through alphabetized encyclopedic entries. Through these entries we learn about her loving but complicated family and her changing friendship with so-called best friend Freddie Blue, which is further tested by the arrival of a cute new neighbour, Kai.

Tink Aaron-Martin is a modern gal, complete with a bi-racial family, a sibling with autism, and a hyphenated last name. She is quirky without being twee, and completely relatable. Her voice and personality is the strongest part of the book. She is quietly confident and author Karen Rivers does an excellent job of exploring the pain of a tween friendship in crisis.

Over the course of the book Tink begins to realize that her best friend Freddie Blue is not actually all that nice, or that much of a friend. The realization is slow and Tink struggles with it. I loved the authenticity of this relationship. Although Rivers’ solution was a bit too neatly tied up for my liking, it does provide closure and reassurance and will likely resonate with young readers.

Although the structure of the novel is a cute idea, at times it didn’t work for me. Some entries felt too tangential and others felt contrived. It also complicated the overall  narrative and made it feel bulky instead of a streamlined plot. It did fit Tink’s personality and I loved her voice so much that it didn’t take away from my enjoyment too much. Readers who enjoy stories about contemporary girls, such as The Mother-Daughter Book Club series, my books, and the work of Susin Nielsen will loved The Encyclopedia of Me.

The Encyclopedia of Me is available now from Scholastic Canada.

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