Monday, November 7, 2016

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday – STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS

I loved Jo Knowles’ emotional middle grade SEE YOU AT HARRY’S, so I was excited to read this book. It’s written from the perspective of a boy whose sibling has a mental illness.

Description from Amazon:
Noah is just trying to make it through seventh grade. The girls are confusing, the homework is boring, and even his friends are starting to bug him. Not to mention that his older sister, Emma, has been acting pretty strange, even though Noah thought she'd been doing better ever since the Thing They Don't Talk About. The only place he really feels at peace is in art class, with a block of clay in his hands. As it becomes clear through Emma's ever-stricter food rules and regulations that she's not really doing better at all, the normal seventh-grade year Noah was hoping for begins to seem pretty unattainable. In an affecting and realistic novel with bright spots of humor, Jo Knowles captures the complexities of navigating middle school while feeling helpless in the face of a family crisis.

Still a Work in Progress was written by Jo Knowles and published by Candlewick Press in 2016.

As a reader and teacher:

When I first started reading, I wasn’t sure I’d like this story, even though the realistic details made me feel almost like I was entering middle school myself. As I read on and let myself get to know Noah, I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to find out what was going on with his family and sister Emma. Experiencing the situation through Noah’s thoughts and perspective made me think about how the whole family is affected when one person has a mental illness.

As a writer: 

Jo Knowles includes specific details and images to create an authentic story. I’d read this one again to study how to write a story about the sibling of a person in a difficult situation. I really liked this perspective and I think it’s an area of middle grade that has been overlooked. Another great example of a character-driven contemporary middle grade.

Opening Line:

“I am not afraid of Molly Lo,” Ryan tells me from inside the stall in the boys’ bathroom.

Other Info:

Jo Knowles is the author of See You at Harry’s, another middle grade book I really recommend (see my thoughts here). She has also written several YA novels.  

Here’s Jo Knowles talking about how she got the idea for the story:

There is a teacher guide for this novel. 


  1. Not read anything by Jo yet, but this sounds really good. Hope it's okay to feel like a work in progress even as an adult.

  2. I was moved by See You At Harry's (who isn't) but I hadn't heard of this title yet. Thanks.


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