Sunday, February 11, 2018

All’s Faire in Middle School (Victoria Jamieson)

Illustrator:  Victoria Jamieson

Target Ages:  9-13

Genre:  Realistic Fiction Graphic Novel

Publisher Summary:  
Growing up with a family who works at the Renaissance Faire, Imogene has always been sure of who she is:  A brave and noble knight.  But now, after being homeschooled, her whole life, she is about to embark on the epic adventure of…middle school!

The storytelling is superb.  Three narrative layers run through simultaneously. 

First, each chapter begins with a short paragraph foreshadowing the Imogene’s experiences.  It is written like she is in an epic story.  The ideas carry through in the real world.  For instance, she depicts difficult situations as dragons.  Also, she uses the code of chivalry as her motto.  The roles of medieval and renaissance people—knight, hermit, princess, and squire—are played out in a modern way.

Next, much of Imogene’s life and experience happens at the Renaissance Faire.  The workers are her extended family.  They encourage and support her both as she takes on a new role in the Faire as well as during her school difficulties.  In this place, Imogene begins to find her strengths and learns to make amends.

The final layer is life outside of the Faire. This part consists of her experience at middle school and in her family. The depictions of middle school angst are realistic and relevant.  Imogene tries to figure out all the rules and expectations set by her peers.  Throughout, she deals with confusion, bullying, and isolation.  The author successfully conveys the tumultuous feelings often experienced during these years.  Fortunately, Imogene has a strong family.  With all the emotional havoc of school, she sometimes acts out against her parents and younger sibling.  In response, they provide guidance and boundaries while being loving and supportive.

Imogene is a realistic character. While she is mostly kind and responsible person, she makes some poor choices. However, she repents and makes amends. Unfortunately, there are long lasting consequences. She has to work to regain trust and to rebuild relationships. Important lessons are learned during these experiences, such as selflessness, kindness, forgiveness, and perseverance.

There are two especially memorable lessons. Imogene learns that she can choose happiness and that life is not about her. Then, she puts these ideas into practice. Overtime, she regains her confidence and makes some true friends. In reality, there is too much emphasis on being a victim of your feelings and circumstances. I love that Imogene is empowered to overcome her bad attitude and difficult circumstances with her choices.  I hope others will be inspired as well.

There is much to love from storytelling to characterization to motifs. The situations are sure to resonate with young readers.  I highly recommend All’s Faire in Middle School. 

Memorable Lines:
You are not a bad person.  We all have a little dragon inside of us. It’s just a matter of keeping it tamed.

The princess volunteers to get eaten by a dragon!  She walks bravely into the very mouth of danger with nary a thought for herself.  She’s not looking for fame, or to be a hero—she’s just a nice person trying to save her village.  Kindness is the truest form or bravery.

I choose to be happy.

That’s why I wear this symbol, to mind myself of the revolutionary concept of the heliocentric model...meaning [I] am not the center of the **** universe.  

Historical and Literary Connections:
  • Renaissance
  • Galileo Galilei
  • Nicolaus Copernicus
  • Saint George and the Dragon

Visit Always in the Middle for more middle grade recommendations. 


  1. I have this one high up on my future reading stack. After seeing your review I put it on top. So many good things to like including the cover. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. Yes, this one is on my list. Middle school angst is so hard on teens. And, I like stories that teach kids happiness is a choice. Look forward to reading All’s Faire in Middle School.

  3. My daughter, who goes to middle school in the fall, loved this book, though it also made her a bit concerned about how things change. It is so hard to not fit in, regardless of your age, but middle school is rough!


Carl and the Meaning of Life (Deborah Freedman)

Title:   Carl and the Meaning of Life   Author :   Deborah Freedman   Illustrator: Deborah Freedman ...